CHICAGO — Mayor Lori Lightfoot joined protesters outside the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) office in Chicago Thursday afternoon after the agency's new head in the region criticized the city for its sanctuary policies.
“ICE's mission remains consistent: to identify, arrest, and remove aliens who present a danger to national security or are a risk to public safety,” ICE's Chicago Field Office Director Robert Guadian said during a press conference Thursday.
According to Guadian, 90 percent of people arrested be ICE fall into four categories: aliens convicted of a crime, charged with a crime, deported but re-entered without authorization, or fugitives who ignored a judge's orders.
But outside ICE's offices, protesters called for the agency to stop enforcement actions, while some called for it to be abolished altogether.
“We will reject in the strongest terms possible the characterization of the good, hardworking people that represent the immigrant and refugee communities not only here in Chicago but across the country," Lightfoot said. "To characterize them as criminals and something less than they are. We won’t tolerate that.”
Guadian is the newest field office director for ICE covering Chicago and Illinois. He critiqued Chicago for continuing to serve as a "sanctuary city" that openly prohibits local law enforcement from assisting ICE in any way.
His statements come after ICE's Acting Director Matthew T. Albence said sanctuary policies "threaten public safety" during a White House press briefing Thursday.
Alderwoman Sue Garza (10th Ward) disagrees, saying ICE raids are targeting hardworking people. On Monday, Garza says ICE raided multiple businesses in her ward and arrested five people who were making pizzas at a local shop.
“This is an established business, people that have been in the community for years and years," Garza said. "They took another with six children.”
Guadian and ICE officials say they do more targeted arrests than raids, often without the aid of local law enforcement. Last year, ICE issued more than 1,000 detainers in Cook County; and they were all denied.
“These sanctuary laws and policies like those in Illinois prevent local jails from honoring our detainees. ICE has no choice but to arrest these aliens in public places in the community," Guadian said.
Lightfoot has been vocal in opposing ICE since taking office, including trying to get a border control conference moved out of the city and refusing to cooperate in nationwide raids conducted by the agency which caused anxiety among many immigrant communities in July.
“We stand united with our immigrant and refugee neighbors, brothers and sisters because it is the only moral choice,” Lightfoot said.
Back in November 2016, then-Mayor Rahm Emanuel reaffirmed Chicago's commitment to be a Sanctuary City, meaning local agencies and police will not assist ICE by sharing information about residents' immigration status.
During the summer, Lightfoot estimated there are 180,000 undocumented immigrants in Chicago.