President Donald Trump and Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel are at loggerheads over Chicago’s insistence on shielding illegal aliens from federal immigration authorities.
Within a week of Trump’s election, Emanuel declared, “Chicago will always remain a sanctuary city.” Trump responded by promising to cut off federal funding to Chicago if it fails to drop its sanctuary polices.
Chicago resident Brian McCann hopes Trump wins this fight. He has a personal stake in the outcome.
On the evening of June 8, 2011, Brian’s brother, Denny McCann, a 68 year-old insurance agent began crossing the street on the Northwest side of Chicago, headed to his favorite client, the owner of El Cid’s Restaurant.
Denny would never make it. A drunk driver by the name of Saul Chavez, whose blood alcohol level was more than three times the legal limit, rammed his car into McCann, dragging him 200 feet to his death.
Chavez was arrested at the scene.
But in December that year, Chavez was released from prison. He avoided immigration authorities because of a recently enacted Cook County, Illinois, ordinance. The measure forbade Cook County Prison, where Chavez was held before posting bond, from honoring a so-called detainer from the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). A detainer document asks a jailer to hold illegal alien criminals for ICE processing after they would otherwise be released.
Chavez failed to appear at his next court date and has not been heard from since. He’s likely back in his native Mexico.
But Chavez should not even have been on the road in Chicago that evening in 2011. In 2007, he was stopped for another drunk driving incident in Chicago. When asked to produce his license, Chavez replied, “I don’t have a driver’s license because I don’t have papers.”
Chicago Police officials kept this important information to themselves because the city’s sanctuary policy prevented cooperation with ICE.
Since Denny’s death Brian McCann has been an activist for tougher immigration policy, specifically for ending sanctuary policies.
“I’m more of a sanctuary city guy than a border guy,” McCann said.
He cheered the recent decision by Miami-Dade County in Florida to end its Chicago-like sanctuary policy that forbade cooperation with ICE on detainers. Miami didn’t want to have its federal funding cut off.
McCann believes President Trump’s fight with Chicago won’t be resolved as easily because three strong personalities — Trump, Emanuel and Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle — have all staked out hardline positions.
Preckwinkle has been largely quiet in this fight though her spokesman Frank Shuftan reiterated her support for Cook County’s sanctuary policy in a statement to me.
McCann recognizes sanctuary supporters in Chicago are a formidable force. “What’s going to happen here is going to get really interesting,” McCann said. “They’re [Emanuel and Preckwinkle] going to fight him.”
McCann said in traveling the country he’s been surprised by the visceral hatred many people have toward Trump as a result of his campaign launch speech in which he said some of the Mexicans illegally coming to America were rapists and murderers.
But McCann also believes that Trump’s persona can be a helpful crutch to rely on: “Trump has such high negatives that we [activists] have to defend him.”
Besides Emanuel and Preckwinkle, Jesus “Chuey” Garcia, currently a Cook County Board member and Emanuel’s mayoral opponent in 2015, along with U.S. Rep. Luis Gutierrez (D-Ill.) will fight Trump on this policy to the bitter end.
The Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights (ICIRR), which was the chief proponent of the 2011 Cook County ordinance, will provide organization on the ground to protect the sanctuary policy.
On cue, ICIRR has thrown down the gauntlet. On Jan. 25 it said:
Organizing to defend immigrant and refugee rights coursed across the nation on January 14, when ICIRR organized an immigration rally in Chicago attended by 1,200 residents in conjunction with nearly 60 other immigration rallies nationwide. The rally introduced a coalition platform supported by immigrant and refugee groups as well as unions and faith groups.
ICIRR touted its Platform for Unity, Resistance and Respect which it said “includes clear demands from the community supporting welcoming policies.”
It’s a “toolkit for local municipalities to advance welcoming ordinances locally,” according to Fred Tsao, ICIRR’s senior policy counsel.
In a shrewd if insensitive move, ICIRR invited McCann to a panel discussion at El Cid’s restaurant shortly after Chavez was released in 2011. McCann was the only person in attendance who favored repeal of the sanctuary policy, facing off with nearly 30 people each with a sob story about a family member who had or was about to be deported.
McCann said ICIRR is now reaching out to business leaders in preparation for a fight with Trump.
Jessica Vaughan, director of policy studies at the Center for Immigration Studies (CIS), counsels that Trump could cut two grant funds immediately: State Criminal Alien Assistance Program (SCAAP) and Justice Assistance Grants (JAG).
Both grants amount to only $3.7 million in Chicago, representing a mere sliver of Chicago’s 2017 budget that exceeded $8 billion.
But Vaughan said there are other grants — specifically from the Department of Justice — which Trump could eliminate, and if he wanted to go big, he could have members of the Cook County Board and the Cook County Sheriff arrested for harboring a fugitive if a released illegal alien commits a crime.
Vaughan has proposed a law named after Denny McCann called Denny’s law in which “ICE should be directed to publish a weekly list of details about the criminal aliens who are freed by the sanctuaries, including criminal histories. In addition, where possible, the victims should also be notified.”
On Jan. 27 President Trump moved in the direction recommended by Vaughan when he signed Executive Order 13769, “Protecting the Nation from Foreign Terrorist Entry into the United States.”
As previously reported:
The order requires the Homeland Security Secretary to report to the public every 180 days how many foreign nationals in the U.S. have been charged with, convicted of, or removed from the country for terrorism-related offenses while in the U.S. or for “terrorism-related activity, affiliation, or material support to a terrorism-related organization, or any other national security reasons.”
The government must also report “gender-based violence against women, including honor killings, in the United States by foreign nationals,” along with how many foreign nationals in the U.S. “have been radicalized after entry into the United States and engaged in terrorism-related acts, or who have provided material support to terrorism-related organizations in countries that pose a threat to the United States[.]” The feds also have to report on the “immigration status of foreign nationals charged with major offenses.
Rahm seemed unimpressed by Executive Order 13769.
“We’re gonna stay a sanctuary city,” Emanuel said. “There is no stranger among us. We welcome people, whether you’re from Poland or Pakistan, whether you’re from Ireland or India or Israel and whether you’re from Mexico or Moldova, where my grandfather came from, you are welcome in Chicago as you pursue the American Dream.”
Whatever the outcome of this fight between Chicago and Trump, McCann believes it will be a tough slog: “This is a long, slow and arduous process.”