Dec 8, 2023 - Politics

Chicago alders advance measure to bolster sanctuary city protections

Jessie Fuentes in front of empty chairs at City Council chambers.

Ald. Jessie Fuentes moments after the immigration committee passed a resolution to extend work permits to undocumented residents. Photo: Monica Eng/Axios

A Chicago City Council committee passed a resolution on Thursday to strengthen the city's sanctuary city status.

Driving the news: The resolution, introduced by progressive Ald. Jessie Fuentes (26th), also urges President Biden to extend protections recently granted to some new arrivals to longtime undocumented residents as well.

Why it matters: The measure counters legislation introduced this fall aiming to place a sanctuary city referendum on the March ballot — and highlights a divide in the council and citywide on migrant issues.

What they're saying: "I feel absolutely ecstatic," Fuentes told Axios after the Committee on Immigration Refugee Rights passed the resolution.

  • "There are folks who feel forgotten, not particularly by this council, but by the Biden administration that made a promise over a decade ago. And so this resolution shows our communities that their local elected officials are in solidarity with them."

Zoom in: The Illinois Restaurant Association is backing the resolution. During public comments, IRA president Sam Toia noted that "severe labor shortages are hammering every restaurant and consumer due to Congress' failure to solve our immigration challenges."

  • He added that the IRA "has been fighting for work permits for undocumented immigrants for well over a decade" and is a founding member of a national coalition promoting such protections through the American Business Immigration Coalition.

By the numbers: Chicago is home to an estimated 180,000 undocumented residents, according to The Resurrection Project.

  • There are 400,000 undocumented immigrants in Illinois — 70% of whom have lived here for more than a decade, per Mark Fleming, associate director of the National Immigrant Justice Center.
  • Fleming further cited 2018 IRS data estimating that undocumented immigrants in the U.S. "annually provide $7 billion into Social Security that they will never see any benefit from."

What's next: The resolution could be up for a full council vote next week.

What we're watching: Three alders are calling for the resignation of seven mayoral staffers over the handling of the now canceled Brighton Park migrant base camp.

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