NPR’s Steve Inskeep talks to Chicago’s new mayor Lori Lightfoot, who says the city has taken steps to support immigrant communities, including terminating ICE’s access to Chicago Police databases.
We do not know if President Trump will follow through on a threat to begin immigration raids in major cities. The president announced these raids on Twitter and then delayed them, saying he wanted to pressure Democrats to agree on changes to immigration law. At a press conference over the weekend, the president said the raids will proceed…
(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)
PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: Unless we do something pretty miraculous. But the Democrats – it seems to me they want to have open borders.
INSKEEP: Now the mayors of 10 big cities where those raids may take place are deciding how to proceed. And in Chicago, the new mayor, Lori Lightfoot, says she’s given orders to police.
What is it that Chicago intends to stop doing that it was doing with immigration authorities?
LORI LIGHTFOOT: I issued a directive to our police superintendent that ICE can no longer get access to any databases that CPD has. So that’s, I think, a big start. The other thing is, I’ve underscored to the police department that they cannot, in any way, facilitate any of the ICE raids, and they understand that.
INSKEEP: I do know that your predecessor, Rahm Emanuel, had taken similar positions, though. Are you going beyond whatever he was having the police do?
LIGHTFOOT: Well, I’m just reemphasizing that this cannot be something that we do. We’re not going to facilitate street closures, blocking of traffic, anything like that.
INSKEEP: Oh. Well, let’s think about that for a moment. If we imagine an ICE raid and it being a rather large-scale effort, they might send immigration agents into an apartment building, hypothetically, to pick some people up. And they might ask the Chicago police for backup to clear the streets, to be ready in case anything goes wrong. You’re telling me the Chicago police just aren’t going to do that.
LIGHTFOOT: We’re not going to do that. It – that is not our role as local law enforcement. We have to make sure that we’re maintaining good relationships with people and communities. Just this morning, I was in an area in our city called Back of the Yards, which has a heavy immigrant population and, certainly, a number of people that are undocumented.
And there’s a level of fear in those neighborhoods, and particularly among some of our young people who come from the immigrant community because, in many instances, they’re first-generation. They are the ones in their family that speak English. And it is scaring them to think about the fact that they may be the victim of an ICE raid or that – their parents or somebody else in their family. So what these tweets do is really work to destabilize neighborhoods and bring fear into our city. And that’s one of the things that we’re trying to work against.
INSKEEP: Some people listening will say, well, naturally, people would be afraid if they’re in the United States without documentation. But do you find fear among people who are in the United States legally?
LIGHTFOOT: When you’re walking down a street and you are a brown-skinned person or you’re a person that lives in an immigrant community, there’s no differentiating on – solely on the basis of what you look like. They don’t walk down the street saying, hi, I’m an immigrant; I’m here legally or not. And so there is a general concern as to how ICE is – make a differentiation.
And we’ve – we had an incident here not that long ago where a woman was stopped on a traffic stop – turned out that she was a DACA kid who is here legally. She was with her young daughter. She wanted to take her daughter home to her parents in the event that she was going to be arrested. And once the ICE agents determined that she was actually subject to DACA and here legally, then they found her parents at home, who were undocumented, had been here for decades and now they’ve been deported.
So those kinds of stories spread like wildfire, and the general fear of what might be coming is something, unfortunately, that permeates many of our neighborhoods.
INSKEEP: If there are people with deportation orders against them, should they be deported?
LIGHTFOOT: If a judge has made a final determination and somebody isn’t here legally, then that’s what our system provides, and they’re going to have to deal with those consequences. Now, there’s obviously also appeal rights, but we expect people that are here going through an immigration process to get their due process. What I would like to see is a focus on individuals who are creating harm in our communities. There are people here engaged in violent crimes. There are people here who engaged in other kinds of things that are disruptive to the community.
INSKEEP: Well, that’s an interesting point because the president has framed this latest threatened set of raids – we don’t know if any raids will happen, but he’s threatened them – framed them as a pressure tactic to get the Democrats in Congress to move. Do you want the Democrats in Congress to work with the president here?
LIGHTFOOT: I want there to be a bipartisan effort to solve this problem that has eluded many presidents. And I don’t think it’s realistic, given the complexities of the issues. If the president isn’t lobbying members of his party to come to the table with a comprehensive solution, it’s not going to work. If that happened, then I have some confidence that we could move forward in a realistic way. But fearmongering, scare tactics and artificial deadlines are not going to get it done.
INSKEEP: You outlined a moment ago what sounds to me like a position similar to the one that President Obama took when he was in office – that authorities should focus on serious criminals, people who have done something wrong other than cross the border illegally. If ICE were to come to you or come to your police department with a narrower list of people and say, this is a list of serious criminals; we want to round them up – would you collaborate then?
LIGHTFOOT: If there’s a court order, yes, we would consider that. If there is a valid court order signed by a judge that isn’t simply an ICE detainer signed by an agent, we will absolutely abide by that. That – we believe in the rule of law – 100%.
INSKEEP: Is there a downside to avoiding broader cooperation with ICE? I know that you’ve got information that they might want. I’m wondering if sometimes they have information that your police might need to solve a crime.
LIGHTFOOT: Look. It’s complicated. There’s no question about it. You know, I’m a former federal prosecutor. Before ICE was ICE, I did a lot of cases with Customs Enforcement. But fundamentally, what we have to do is stand up for the rights of people in our communities. We have to support them.
It’s hard for me to listen to young people who are terrified that their parents are going to be taken away from them – kids who know no other land than the United States, who know no other place than Chicago. And I think what gets lost in the shuffle is the human toll that it’s taken, and I’m seeing it and witnessing it every day.
INSKEEP: Lori Lightfoot is the new mayor of Chicago.
Mayor, thanks so much for your time.
LIGHTFOOT: Thank you. I appreciate your time.