Chicago Mayor Rahm Emmanuel announced a new ordinance that he intends to propose in Chicago that would prevent police officers from turning over undocumented immigrants to federal agents unless the immigrant has an outstanding criminal warrant or a serious criminal conviction. The New York Times notes that Cook County, IL, which is governed separately from the City of Chicago, was under fire recently from ICE Director John Morton because of its own “sanctuary” law that bars the detaining of undocumented immigrants in order to turn them over to federal agents unless “federal agents have a specific warrant. “ The Times article notes that even though the purpose behind this proposed ordinance is pretty much directly opposite of the attrition focus of Arizona’s SB1070 which the White House has opposed and the Supreme Court limited in its recent decision, it could still be viewed as an infringement of the federal government’s immigration enforcement powers. Director Morton, in his testimony before a House of Representatives subcommittee stated that he is “quite confident that [Cook County’s] approach is ultimately going to lead to additional crimes in Cook County that would have been prevented.” However, Mayor Emmanuel, facing a homicide rate that has increased by 39% from a year ago, believes that the ordinance would encourage community cooperation between the police and the immigrant community as it would ease their fears of deportation.
It remains to be seen how the Obama administration will deal with this challenge to its immigration authority, but it is refreshing to see local governments taking a stand against the fear-of-the-immigrant and attrition policies popularized by bills similar to SB1070. Illinois is also one of two states that has resisted ICE’s Secure Communities implementation thus far.