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Davis Statement on Chicago Suit in Response to Department of Justice Threat to Withhold Byrne Grants

Everyone in America is likely an immigrant, the direct descendent of immigrants, the direct descendent of men and women abducted, transported and forced into slavery or a descendant of Native Americans who originally inhabited this land more than 12,000 years ago.

In each case, somewhere, sometime, you and/or your ancestors who had not yet achieved, or who had been denied citizenship, were likely accused of being unworthy of becoming an American citizen.  Chinese, Irish, Jewish, Mexican, Muslim, Filipino, Polish, African American, Native American, people, the list goes on and on, were all declared unworthy of attaining citizenship . . . all too often labeled “illegal” and therefore “criminal.” 

Attempts to divide our people for political or economic benefit based on appeals to prejudice endure.  Case, by case, year, by year, legal and social struggles broke down some of the artificial barriers to full citizenship.  But the labeling of the undocumented as “illegal” and equating “illegal” with “criminal” remains one of the most persistent and insidious of such appeals.  

But that is not consistent with what our constitution says.  As Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote for the majority in the landmark 2012 U.S. Supreme Court 6-3 ruling in Arizona vs. United States,  "As a general rule, it is not a crime for a movable alien to remain in the United States."  

The Congressional Research Service noted in a report to Congress: "Being illegally present in the U.S. has always been a civil, not criminal, violation of the Immigration and Nationality Act, and subsequent deportation and associated administrative processes are civil proceedings.”  

"Undocumented presence alone is not a violation of federal criminal law," the ACLU said in 2010. "Thus, many believe that the term 'illegal alien,' which may suggest a criminal violation, is inaccurate or misleading."

In his campaign the President Trump asserted foreigners were at the root of many of America’s problems and that the solution would be their removal and the construction of  a “big, beautiful wall” along the U.S.-Mexico border.  

President Trump and Attorney General Sessions use inflammatory rhetoric to condemn those who are in the U.S. without permission as criminals.  

But the undocumented  have constitutional rights.  More than forty years of studies have clearly and repeatedly demonstrated that the undocumented are no more likely to have committed a crime than any other members of our society.  

The eleven million undocumented in the U.S. are an integral part of our community.  Two thirds have lived in the U.S. for at least ten years, with a median time of residence is 13.6 years.  

They work hard in the fields, on construction sites, in restaurant kitchens.  They pay tens of billions of dollars in state, local and social security taxes  though they do not qualify for social security.  More than a third of them own their own home.

We do not need, and our national interests are not served by, mass immigration raids, deportations, terrorizing and disrupting the lives of millions.  

What we need is comprehensive immigration reform. The President should reach out in a bipartisan effort to find common ground for legislative action.  

Coercing our churches, schools, hospitals, cities and counties, to participate in an anti-immigrant frenzy is destructive to our community and morally unacceptable.

The withholding of federal funds from Chicago, Cook County and other local governments will not solve any immigration issues.  It will undermine the safety, well being and economic viability of communities.  

The withholding of federal funds from Chicago, Cook County and other local governments to coerce them into accepting an arbitrary executive order is in violation of the law.   

In April, a federal district court in California blocked the Trump administration from enforcing part of a January executive order to defund “sanctuary cities,” ruling that the directive likely exceeded federal law and unfairly targeted those jurisdictions.

“Federal funding that bears no meaningful relationship to immigration enforcement cannot be threatened merely because a jurisdiction chooses an immigration-enforcement strategy of which the president disapproves,” federal judge William Orrick wrote.

Judge Orrick noted that the President’s executive order for broad restrictions against local jurisdictions that defy federal immigration policy appears to clash with two landmark U.S. Supreme Court rulings, Printz v. United States and National Federation of Independent v. Sebelius.  

These two decisions, which, ironically, were also major victories for the conservative legal movement, constrain the federal government’s power to coerce or compel state and local governments. Judge Orrick’s order cited numerous other deficiencies in the President’s executive order including violations of the U.S. Constitution’s Tenth Amendment (powers of states) and Article I (spending power of Congress).

In July, Judge Orrick refused to alter the injunction after the Department of Justice attempted to narrow their order.  Orrick noted: "that the Counties have standing, that their claims against the Executive Order are ripe, and that they are likely to succeed on the merits of those claims."

Chicago’s refusal to be coerced by the Trump administration, and its legal response to the President’s order is in the best interests of all Chicagoans and it is in the best interests of the nation.  It is the right thing to do.  

The Trump administration policy of bashing immigrants for political gain is immoral, illegal and abhorrent and I am convinced it will not stand.

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    repName Danny K. Davis  
    helpWithFedAgencyAddress Chicago District Office
    2813-15 W. Fifth Avenue
    Chicago, Illinois 60612
     
    district 7th District of Illinois  
    academyUSCitizenDate July 1, 2017  
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