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Opinion Lori Lightfoot: Why Chicago police will not assist ICE in its raids

Protesters rally against President Trump's immigration policy in Chicago on Saturday. (Abel Uribe/Chicago Tribune via AP)

Lori Lightfoot is mayor of Chicago.

Dear President Trump,

On Friday, I ordered my city’s police department not to cooperate with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) on any activities within the city of Chicago and not to allow ICE agents access to our police databases.

These actions cut off ICE access to the Chicago Police Department’s databases and prevent the department from facilitating raids, setting traffic perimeters for ICE checkpoints, or otherwise aiding ICE in arrest or deportation activities. Our law department issued new specific protocols advising all personnel working at city-owned facilities, including libraries, Park District buildings, senior centers and schools, not to cooperate with ICE. And we significantly increased funding for the city’s legal defense fund to offset legal costs for undocumented Chicagoans.

I took these steps in response to a set of policies from your administration that don’t make us safer or stronger as a nation.

We can all agree that our current immigration system is broken. We must do better — both for our residents and for those who come to our borders. Comprehensive, humane immigration reform can and must be a bipartisan imperative. Yes, we need reasonable border security — but we must achieve it in ways consistent with our values and our history as a country built and nurtured by immigrants.

The administration’s aggressive anti-immigrant posture does not advance these goals. It has caused alarm and long-term harm without moving the needle toward comprehensive reform.

There are approximately 180,000 undocumented people living in the city of Chicago, working, riding the public transportation system, sending their kids to public schools and attending City Colleges. Every day, when I talk to immigrants, asylum seekers and advocates, what I hear is fear, confusion and anxiety. Fear of families being separated, confusion about the scope of their rights and anxiety that the next knock on the door, the next traffic stop could irreparably upset the lives they have built for themselves in our city.

The threats and realities of stepped-up enforcement have not had the deterrent effect you intended, because the people you are targeting are not actually the problem. They came to the United States in search of a better life, free from violence, crushing poverty and oppressive governments that restrict their basic rights. They work in our local businesses, they build and repair our streets, buildings and other infrastructure. They are our neighbors, they are our family members, they are part of our community. They contribute to our economy in meaningful ways. Countless business organizations attest to this fact.

Attacking these members of our communities also hurts our local economy, because they are at times afraid to go outside to shop for the necessities of life.

I urge you to rethink the harmful policies that your administration is promoting both at the border and within the homeland. Like most Americans, I see images on the news of unsanitary and unacceptable facilities along our border. As a parent, I have been horrified by the treatment and death of children in detention. It is unconscionable, contrary to our core values and will waste taxpayer dollars through costly and avoidable litigation.

Mr. President, you sit at the top of a government unmatched in prestige and power. I urge you to honor your office and the people you serve by standing as a leader who accomplishes what has eluded other presidents — humane, comprehensive immigration reform. Spend your capital on that mission.

Consider the lasting harm that the mere threat of these raids is doing to children all over this country — children who go to bed every night and off to summer camps or playgrounds every morning with the constant worry that ICE agents will take them or their parents away.

Any such efforts by ICE in our city will be met with fierce resistance from Chicagoans who have been organizing tirelessly in their communities, and with an unshakable resolve to stand with, and never against, our immigrant neighbors.

As mayor of a wonderful, diverse and uniquely American city, I carry these children’s stories with me because I have met them, heard their testimonials and looked directly into their tear-filled eyes. I urge you again, Mr. President, to find your conscience before you do further damage to the lives of these children and families, and to the standing and respect our country has enjoyed in the world.

Read more:

Juliette Kayyem: No, Mike Pence, the immigration system isn’t overwhelmed. We have the power to fix it.

The Rev. Randall Keeney: Want to provide sanctuary to an undocumented person? This is what it takes.

The Post’s View: Trump’s planned deportations are mainly for show. That’s all.

Karen Tumulty: Democrats learn the hard way: Latino voters don’t care just about immigration

Jeh Charles Johnson: Trump-era politics are drowning out consensus on immigration. It’s time for some straight talk.