Chicago City Council Descends Into Chaos over Proposed Referendum on Sanctuary City Status
FAIR Take | November 2023
Over the past two weeks, Chicago’s City Council has descended into chaos over a proposed referendum to let voters have a say in whether the city keeps its sanctuary city ordinance.
For weeks, Alderman Anthony Beale has been trying to convince the City Council to place a non-binding referendum measure on the ballot in March of 2024 to let the voters have a say in whether Chicago remains a sanctuary city. The referendum measure has 12 co-sponsors on the City Council—over 20 of the 50 aldermen who make up the Council. ”All I’m asking is to give people a voice on this issue,” Ald. Beale said.
Even though the proposed referendum is non-binding, open-borders politicians on Chicago’s City Council have resorted to thug-like tactics to stop it. The first meeting on the measure took place on Thursday, Nov. 2. But according to several accounts, Alderman Carlos Ramirez Rosa, serving as Mayor Johnson’s floor manager, urged other members of the council not to attend so that the council would not reach the quorum of 26 needed to conduct official business.
Alderman Emma Mitts reported that Ramirez Rosa first texted her in the morning and told her not to come to the council meeting. Then, when she went anyway, he told her that she “shouldn’t be there.” Later, according to Ms. Mitts, Ramirez Rosa physically blocked her from entering the city council chamber, saying, “You can’t go in here.” At that point, two other aldermen, who witnessed this attempt to intimidate her, moved him aside and helped escort Ms. Mitts into the room.
Another alderman, Mr. Scott Waguespack reported that Ramirez Rosa attempted to pressure three other aldermen to either leave the City Council chamber during the meeting on the sanctuary city referendum, or to vote against the measure, by threatening to block “any future zoning legislation” in their wards from passing out of the Zoning Committee if they helped the meeting go forward.
Sadly the referendum proposal never came to a vote. Opponents of the measure repeatedly called for a quorum, clearly aware that some of the Mayor’s most ardent supporters had skipped the meeting or intentionally stayed in the hallway to thwart the hearing. At one point Ald. Ray Lopez, who co-sponsored the measure, asked the sergeant-at-arms to physically bring in the aldermen who were outside the chamber. According to Axios, a quorum was eventually established using aldermen who joined the meeting remotely. However, when a fourth quorum call was requested, officials decided not to count them, quashing the vote. The lights went out and people were told to leave. Ramirez Rosa declared the meeting was adjourned and the sanctuary city referendum would not be taken up.
Ramirez Rosa later said his actions were merely a reaction to the ignorance of the Aldermen proposing the ordinance. “That is what is frustrating about the ‘debate,’ because people who are attacking the Sanctuary City Ordinance don’t know what they are talking about,” said Ald. Carlos Ramirez Rosa. He argued the Sanctuary City Ordinance only refers to law enforcement and government officials not cooperating with ICE. “It has nothing to do with the refugee resettlement or the current crisis.” He said providing resources to migrants is about the city’s values; it’s not written in the ordinance.
However, Mr. Rosa Ramirez is wrong. Chicago originally became a sanctuary city in 1985 when Mayor Harold Washington signed an executive order allowing all persons, regardless of immigration status, to access city services and benefits. That executive order was formalized into a city ordinance, called the “Welcoming City Ordinance” in 2006. While it is certainly true that the Welcoming City Ordinance bars local law enforcement from cooperating with federal immigration authorities, it also expressly prohibits the City of Chicago from denying benefits and services based on immigration status. Section 2-173-040 reads: “No agent or agency shall condition the provision of City of Chicago benefits, opportunities, or services on matters related to citizenship or immigration status unless required to do so by statute, federal regulation, or court decision.” This means Chicago may not deny illegal aliens shelter and other services meant to aid the homeless and poor.
In an attempt to regain control of the situation, the Council’s Rules Committee convened a meeting last Tuesday to substitute Beale’s proposed referendum with watered-down text offered by Mayor Johnson’s allies. That version would say: “Should the city of Chicago impose reasonable limits on the city’s providing resources for migrant sheltering, such as funding caps and shelter occupancy time limits, if necessary to prevent a substantial negative impact on Chicago’s current residents?”
Ald. Ray Lopez criticized the Mayor’s new text as lengthy, toothless, and fundamentally flawed. “This question does not answer the issue as to why people continue to be shipped to the city of Chicago,” said Lopez. “And they are shipped here because we remain unabashed in saying a welcoming city, a sanctuary city. Even though Republicans and Democrats are now taking full advantage of that.”
It appears that residents attending the meeting agreed with Mr. Lopez. As debate on the measure began, anger boiled over and they began booing and shouting at the alderman. The committee chairwoman ordered the sergeant-at-arms to clear the room, but it took nearly 10 minutes for the sergeant-at-arms to restore order. During the chaos, the committee announced that the Rules Committee was in recess until November 16—one day after the Council plans a vote on Mayor Johnson’s $16.6 billion budget.
Regarding Alderman Ramirez Rosa’s outrageous behavior, it drove multiple aldermen to demand the Council mete out some sort of punishment. But unfortunately, a motion to censure Ramirez Rosa was narrowly rejected by the full council last week. Before the vote took place Ramirez Rosa offered the council an apology. He also resigned as Mayor Johnson’s floor manager and as chairman of the zoning committee. In the end, the censure motion lost by only one vote. The tally was tied 24-24 until Mayor Johnson cast the deciding “no” vote.