When my family and I were driving back from Chicago, a vote of the city council was revealed that perfectly captured the hypocrisy and politics surrounding undocumented migrants in major cities.
The council voted down an effort to allow voters to decide on whether Chicago should remain a sanctuary city. The measure was defeated 16-31.
During our visit, there were distribution areas of undocumented families near my mother’s house on the Northside.
There were also a large number of tents now near the park for the burgeoning homeless population.
What is striking about the vote is the contrast to the prior adoption of sanctuary city measures.
Starting under Mayor Harold Washington, the city council was eager to vote on measures heralding its status as a sanctuary city and calling on migrants to come to the city. Mayor Rahm Emanuel reaffirmed Chicago’s status as a haven for immigrants fearing deportation and encouraged them to view Chicago as a protected zone:
“You are safe in Chicago. You are secure in Chicago. And you are supported in Chicago. This is a city of inclusion.”
It was a major article of faith on the left to pass legislation (as the city did) to obstruct federal deportation efforts while declaring the city open for migrants.
Such virtue-signaling was wildly popular. Then migrants started to show up in large numbers.
While the city has only received a small percentage of the migrants as opposed to smaller cities along the border, Mayor Brandon Johnson (who also once proclaimed his own pro-immigrant stance) is denouncing both the Texas and federal governments for increasing numbers of migrants in Chicago. In the meantime, protests are growing over migrant camps and construction plans.
This puts liberal politicians in a bind. They do not want to take the heat by rescinding years of sanctuary city policies while not ticking off voters who are upset with the rising costs and impact on the city.
The solution was to block any effort to give the citizens a chance to voice their view of these policies in defeating the resolution of Alderman Anthony Beale (9th) and Raymond Lopez (15th).
Notably, much of the protests have come from traditionally black precincts where locals are fed up with the increasingly crowded conditions for schools and diversion of resources. Yet, eight alderman for those precincts voted to kill the proposal.
It appears that consulting the voters was not a good option for these politicians. Democracy is only useful for certain tasks, particularly when the outcome is likely to be a rejection of long-held policies. Polls indicate that the majority of Chicagoans oppose the sanctuary city policies. Nationally, some polls show 80 percent of voters oppose sanctuary city policies.
In one controversy on an earlier vote, Mayor Brandon Johnson’s floor leader, Alderman Carlos Ramirez-Rosa (35th) was accused of physically blocking West Side Alderman Emma Mitts (37th) from entering Council chambers in an effort to prevent a quorum of alderpeople needed to vote on the resolution. He was also accused of threatening members who supported the effort to let the voter decide. He later resigned as floor leader.
While Johnson opposed the measure, he has publicly decried the cost for caring for migrants. He wants to stay technically a sanctuary city without offering quite so much sanctuary.
Johnson blamed Texas Gov. Greg Abbott’s “reckless” and “dangerous” decision to send buses of migrants to Chicago despite the city proclaiming for years that it was open for migrants to come and would refuse to assist the federal government in deportation efforts.
In the meantime, Gov. J.B. Pritzker has opened up 230 hotel rooms for migrants as local citizens demand a change in state and city policies.
Given the anger of such residents, the city council has found a solution: just don’t let them vote.
It appears to be something of a trend around the country.