Mayor Rahm Emanuel on Monday reaffirmed Chicago's status as a haven for immigrants fearing deportation for entering the United States illegally, a day after President-elect Donald Trump vowed to expel as many as 3 million immigrants who he said have criminal records.
Emanuel's words of reassurance to undocumented immigrants in the country's third-largest municipality followed similar pledges last week from the mayors of New York and Los Angeles to maintain their designations as "sanctuary cities."
“You are safe in Chicago. You are secure in Chicago. And you are supported in Chicago," Emanuel said at a news conference at Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago. "This is a city of inclusion."
The sanctuaries movement has been embraced in nearly 40 U.S. cities where local police have made it a policy to refrain from checking the immigration status of individuals under arrest and sharing that information with federal authorities who could act to deport them.
The movement came to greater national attention under the Democratic administration of President Barack Obama who was criticized by Republicans for tolerating sanctuaries even as his administration moved to step up deportations of immigrants with criminal records.
It has taken on a new sense of urgency after Trump, a Republican, promised during his campaign to expand deportations and to withhold federal funds from cities that shield people in the country illegally.
In a nationally televised interview Sunday, Trump said he would immediately deport or incarcerate 2 million to 3 million illegal immigrants who he said are convicted criminals, street gang members or drug dealers. By comparison, roughly 2 million people have been deported during Obama's eight years in office.
Emanuel, a former White House chief of staff under Obama, said undocumented immigrants in Chicago would also continue to have access to public services, including education and city-funded healthcare.
He was joined by civic and business leaders who support the sanctuary movement and two state lawmakers spearheading a bill to allow undocumented students to apply for financial aid at public four-year colleges if they meet certain requirements.
The City Council is soon expected to approve Emanuel’s plan for a municipal identification card that would benefit undocumented immigrants, the homeless and others who find it difficult to obtain a government ID.
Lurie Children's Hospital chief Patrick Magoon said Trump's immigration stance was causing tremendous anxiety, citing data showing calls to suicide prevention and crisis hotlines statewide have doubled since Trump was elected.
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(Editing by Steve Gorman and Andrew Hay)