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Are ICE Sting Operations Impacting Chicago Immigration?

Written By The Shapiro Law Group on March 17, 2020

Immigration and Customs Enforcement (“ICE”) agents called Chicago police dispatchers requesting assistance with the service of a warrant, the call manipulated Chicago police into appearing like they were assisting ICE agents in undocumented immigration raids. Chicago immigration policies prohibited the police, and other city officials, from asking a person about their immigration status. The false call also threatens to undermine coordination between ICE and Chicago police as emergency dispatchers must now ask more questions of emergency calls by ICE agents prior to dispatching Chicago police.

The 911 Call Incident

ICE agents called for backup from Chicago police during an immigration raid. Chicago police were not aware there was a raid and believed they were responding to an emergency call for assistance. The police offices left the area once it was clear that no one was in danger. Importantly, the Chicago police did not participate in the raid. However, the damage may already be done as immigrants from that neighborhood undoubtedly saw Chicago police appearing to assist ICE agents in effecting an immigration sweep.

It also appears that this incident was not the only one. A Chicago alderman reported that ICE agents also called for assistance while sweeping a pizza shop to which police responded. The incident has resulted in Mayor Lightfoot ordering city departments to constrict when they can and how they render assistance to federal agents enforcing immigration law. Further, the Mayor committed to providing more training to police officers and support staff to prevent these incidents in the future.

Chicago Immigration Policy

Local police have fundamentally different goals than ICE agents. Local police protect residents from all crimes. Accordingly, they must develop trust with the communities in which they serve because they depend on residents to report crimes and identify perpetrators. Conversely, ICE agents focus entirely on immigration-related crimes; therefore, there is no need to develop community trust. When an incident, such as this one, occur, it can undermine community trust in the police, which reduces the effectiveness of police and may increase crime.

Chicago, like other cities, began adopting “sanctuary” city policies to protect their immigrant populations. Chicago’s immigration policy prohibits public officials, including police, from assisting immigration authorities. Further, they cannot ask about immigration status or report their knowledge of immigration status to federal authorities. These immigrant-friendly policies ensure that the Chicago police and the other government entities that provide immigration services to their residents.