Dec 14, 2023 - News

Chicago moves to crack down on migrant buses and prevent hate crimes

Mayor Brandon Johnson presides over a City Council meeting, with alders standing and clapping from their seats.

City Council members start Wednesday's meeting by applauding students in attendance from special needs schools around the city. Photo: Monica Eng/Axios

Chicago alders approved new laws on migrant buses and hate crimes as well as a new measure on undocumented workers during Wednesday's contentious City Council meeting.

Why it matters: The meeting, one of the last of 2023, tackled several major local issues, delivering some wins to Mayor Brandon Johnson's progressive supporters but leaving others unresolved.

Driving the news: After heated debate, the council rejected an arbitrator's ruling to allow officers accused of serious misconduct to plead their cases behind closed doors, instead of before the Police Board.

  • The question will bounce back to an arbitrator, who is expected to send the same ruling back to the council, probably yielding the final decision to the courts.

What's more, the council voted on three other issues involving:

Migrants: Alders voted to allow local officials to impound buses that bring migrants to the area outside official hours and the official landing zone, effective immediately.

  • Buses have violated the rules at least 77 times, according to the city's law department.
  • "If folks are going to so flagrantly disregard the law, we are going to need this stronger enforcement," sponsor Daniel La Spata tells Axios.

Racism and discrimination: The council unanimously approved a measure that centralizes how hate crimes — and the new category of "hate incidents" — are reported and tracked.

  • The ordinance, expected to take effect next month, will also mandate hate crime training for police officers and increase reporting requirements for city agencies.
  • 50th Ward Alder Debbie Silverstein, the bill's sponsor, told ABC-7 that the law is needed because people currently don't know how to deal with such incidents and that streamlining the reporting process will help reduce hate crimes.

Work permits: Alders passed a resolution bolstering Chicago's Welcoming City ordinance. It also urges President Biden to extend work permits to the estimated 11 million undocumented people in the U.S.

  • Sponsor Jessie Fuentes (26th) tells Axios, "This resolution shows our communities that their local elected officials are in solidarity with them."

What we're watching: Today the council is scheduled to discuss a potential March referendum on whether Chicago should remain a sanctuary city.

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