Posted on December 18, 2020

Lightfoot Follows Through on Promise to Eliminate Exceptions to Chicago’s Welcoming City Ordinance

Fran Spielman, Chicago Sun-Times, December 15, 2020

Mayor Lori Lightfoot is finally delivering on her campaign promise to eliminate exceptions in Chicago’s Welcoming City ordinance that let Chicago police officers work with immigration agents.


Ald. Carlos Ramirez-Rosa (35th), who is listed as a co-sponsor of the mayor’s ordinance, called it a “great day for the immigrant- and refugee-rights community” and the culmination of a five-year battle.


“We will finally be able to tell them authoritatively and definitively that they should have no fear of their local police as it relates to federal immigration law enforcement because local police and ICE cannot cooperate in any single case.”

Chicago police officers currently are permitted to cooperate with Immigration and Customs Enforcement if targeted individuals are in the city’s gang database; have pending felony prosecutions or prior felony convictions; or are the subject of an outstanding criminal warrant.

The mayor’s ordinance, already posted on the city clerk’s website, would eliminate all of the exceptions.

Any “agent or agency” of the city would also be forbidden to:

  • Stop, arrest, detain or continue to detain a person solely on the belief that the person is not present legally in the United State or has committed a civil immigration violation.
  • Transfer any person into ICE custody for the sole purpose of civil immigration enforcement.
  • Set up a traffic perimeter or provide on-site support to assist a civil immigration enforcement operation.


Chicago’s days as a “sanctuary city” where undocumented people can access city services and live without fear of police harassment date back 35 years.

In 1985, then-Mayor Harold Washington issued an executive order prohibiting city employees from enforcing federal immigration laws. {snip}

Four years later, then-Mayor Richard M. Daley affirmed the executive order. In 2006, the City Council turned the order into law as the immigration debate raged on in Congress.

It prohibited city agencies from asking about the immigration status of people seeking city services. The ordinance also prohibited Chicago police from questioning the immigration status of crime victims, witnesses or other law-abiding residents.