City Cast

How Chicago Became a Sanctuary City

Sidney Madden
Sidney Madden
Posted on October 16   |   Updated on October 17
A mural voicing support for immigrants in Pilsen in 2017

A mural voicing support for immigrants in Pilsen in 2017. (Scott Olson / Getty)

Should Chicago remain a sanctuary city?

That’s what Alds. Anthony Napolitano, 41st Ward, and Anthony Beale, 9th Ward, want to ask voters to decide as more than 18,000 migrants have arrived in the city since last year. The two alders sponsored a resolution earlier this month to add a referendum to the March primary, CBS Chicago reported.

We’re diving into what a sanctuary city is and how Chicago became one.

What is a Sanctuary City?

The status means a municipality relaxes local enforcement of federal immigration laws. In Chicago, the city isn’t supposed to ask about immigration status, disclose that information to authorities, or deny city services depending on immigration status.

When Did Chicago Become a Sanctuary City?

Chicago has been a sanctuary city since 1985, when Mayor Harold Washington issued an executive order with the designation. The order became law in 2006 and re-affirmed during the Trump years.

Why Do Some Alder Want to Remove the Status?

The city is overwhelmed trying to shelter and aid the growing number of asylum-seekers. The Johnson administration has plans to build winterized base camps to shelter migrants. Some residents and alders are frustrated by the lack of notice about temporary shelters opening in neighborhoods.

What’s Next?

For Chicagoans to decide in the spring, 26 alders would have to vote in favor of the proposed resolution, which would be challenging in a City Council under the city’s most progressive mayor. Plus, removing the designation could introduce legal complications with the state since Illinois is a sanctuary state, Cristina Pacione-Zayas, Johnson’s deputy chief of staff, told the Sun-Times.

Where are Other Sanctuary Cities?

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