Chicago strengthens its defense of immigrants amid raids
Supporters gather for rally at Chicago Teachers Union headquarters in support of immigrants. | AP

CHICAGO— One of President Trump’s favorite rhetorical punching bags, the city of Chicago, has not been shy about its disdain for Trump and his policies since even before the election. From rallying and effectively shutting down Trump’s campaign rally at UIC, to voting for Hillary Clinton by a margin of 75 points, to now, being faced with racist immigration policies, preparing to bodily defend the undocumented community.

The Trump White House has backed up his anti-immigration bluster with action, directing the Department of Homeland Security to, among other things, publicize crimes by undocumented immigrants, enlist local police as immigration enforcers and build new detention centers.

In Phoenix, 35-year-old Guadalupe García de Rayos was arrested while during a routine check-in with ICE officials. Under President Obama, she and many law-abiding undocumented residents of the US had been considered “low priority,” but the Trump administration has done away with such delineations.

The task of arresting and transporting García de Rayos proved difficult, however, when members of the community tied themselves to the wheels of the van that carried her.

Earlier this month, Chicago was a part of Trump’s first large-scale deportation operation. In its first week, 680 people were arrested including 48 in Chicago.

Many Chicago neighborhoods have since held training events to build rapid response networks in preparation for Trump’s promised deportation raids, many of them willing to go as far as the community in Phoenix did for Guadalupe.

For example, the 35th Ward Community Defense Committee has focused on door to door canvasing to inform residents of their rights in case they’re confronted by immigration officials.  They have also resolved to enlist churches and schools as sanctuaries and hold direct action trainings.

The resistance to Trump hasn’t just taken place at the grassroots either. Chicago Public Schools has circulated a memo directing principals to not share student records with ICE officials.

“In line with the city of Chicago’s Welcoming City Ordinance,” the ordinance which proclaims Chicago a “sanctuary city” for immigrants, “ICE agents will not be permitted to access CPS facilities unless there is a verified, criminal warrant,” reads the memo.

Furthermore, in December, Mayor Rahm Emanuel announced the creation of a $1 million “legal protection fund” in collaboration with the National Immigrant Justice Center to aid undocumented immigrants under threat of deportation.

The Sheriff of Cook County, where Chicago is located, has said that his department has “no interest” in allocating resources to crack down on undocumented immigrants.

According to the Chicago Tribune, Cara Smith, policy chief for Sheriff Tom Dart said the department has “not been approached nor would be interested in participating in this program… Our focus is and will remain on addressing violence in the city.”


Patrick J. Foote
Patrick J. Foote

Patrick Foote writes occasionally for People's World. At the University of Central Florida, he worked with the Student Labor Action Project organizing around the intersection of student and worker issues. He would go on to work in the labor movement in such organizations as Central Florida Jobs with Justice, AFSCME Council 79, and OUR Walmart.