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LETTERS Seeking sanctuary
2017-05-17

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The following statement on policy demands was issued by Mijente, Black Youth Project 100 and Organized Communities Against Deportations:

1 ) Protect all Chicagoans from immigration enforcement: The City should strengthen the Welcoming City Ordinance, the policy that makes Chicago a "Sanctuary" city by limiting communication between the Chicago Police Department ( CPD ) and Immigration and Customs Enforcement ( ICE ).

A strong policy would remove all of the exceptions listed in the ordinance that currently allow for CPD to turn Chicagoans over to ICE when they have a felony charge ( regardless of what the charge is, or whether they have been convicted or not ), have a felony conviction ( regardless of what it is, or when it took place, or any exigent circumstances ), if they are listed in the gang database, or if they have a warrant for arrest. The protections from immigration enforcement should include all Chicagoans.

In addition, the Welcoming Cities Ordinance should be amended to include recommendations from Chicago's immigrant-rights groups, including: mandating that no agency or city employee will accept requests by immigration enforcement agencies to assist in civil immigration enforcement operations, such as "check-points" or traffic perimeters; barring the city from entering into any agreements that permit local government entities, including local police departments, to enforce immigration laws; prohibit the use of city equipment for immigration enforcement; require any information regarding citizenship or immigration status be deleted from all applications, questionnaires and interview forms used in City documents.

2 ) Institute policies that decriminalize and reduce arrests: The city should create or expand programs and diversion programs that provide an effective alternative to charges before arrest or before conviction for a variety of offenses. These programs, which could be diversionary, could start with de-criminalizing or creating alternative forms of accountability for:

—Driving under the influence ( DUI );

—Crimes of survival, such as theft and sex work;

—Drug-related offenses;

—Loitering and disturbing the peace charges; and

—Offenses that take place in public schools or other public educational facilities.

The city of Chicago has a bad record of over-policing and criminalizing communities of color. A 2015 series of Chicago Tribune Articles, for example, documented that 80 percent of driving under the influence checkpoints were taking place in Latino and Black neighborhoods in Chicago.

Under a Trump administration where people with any criminal record or arrest may be considered priority for deportation, and in a city where the Department of Justice has found that the police routinely violate the 4th Amendment, decriminalizing charges like these could have a big impact in the safety of communities of color. These are also the types of charges and crimes that funnel youth of color, transgender people, and other vulnerable communities into incarceration.

Decriminalizing drug possession and other crimes listed above and investing in community initiatives, harm reduction services, or treatment can also improve public safety and health and is good public policy.

3 ) Eliminate use of the gang database by Chicago Police and law enforcement officials in schools and other public institutions: Eliminate the use or city participation in any database tracking supposed gang affiliation, including by local police and any law enforcement or security guard in public institutions, such as public schools, clinics, etc.

Chicago gang databases feed into national databases that are routinely used by DHS and immigration enforcement to select their deportation targets. But being listed in the gang database does not necessarily mean that the individual is part of a gang. In reality, the ways in which individuals are recorded into a gang database are vague, inconsistent, rely on the discretion of individual police officers, including in police districts under investigation for civil rights violations and excessive use of force. In addition to the there are grave concerns about civil rights violations and due process, including that across databases, there is no way for an individual to find out whether they are in the database, and no mechanism to challenge the information.

Continuing the use of a gang database that criminalizes youth and other people of color effectively funnels Chicagoans into deportation lists to be pursued by the Trump administration.

4 ) Divest police funding and invest in communities: Across the country, cities allocate a large percentage of their budget and resources to police departments. In Chicago, it is over 40% of our city budget. A more effective tool for increasing community safety and reducing crime is to invest in community programs and community organizations. The City of Chicago must find ways to divest from police enforcement, push back on the Trump agenda to militarize Chicago law-enforcement as part of creating a Sanctuary city that is safe for everyone.

Links:

www.chicagotribune.com/news/watchdog/ct-dui-checkpoints-chicago-met-20150507-story.html .

time.com/4649311/donald-trump-chicago-crime-feds/ .


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