The mayor's got moves like Obama

OPINION

July 24, 2012|By Hector Luis Alamo Jr | For RedEye

First, after breaking annual records for the number of deportations in a year, President Obama tacked back to his Latino base in June by shielding DREAMers. Now, Mayor Emanuel aims to make Chicago the most immigrant-friendly city in America with a proposed ordinance that would ensure police detain only the undocumented immigrants wanted for serious crimes.

Behold the awe-inspiring adeptness of America's greatest political ninjas.

Obama and Emanuel are students of the Chicago school of political ninjutsu, which, besides preaching the virtues of stealth and evasion, teaches young statesmen the art of striking with force at the right place and at the right time.

That's what they did here: They saw the chance to deal a powerful blow, and they pounced. (Obama and Illinois Dems did the same with marriage equality rights. But, hey, who's counting?)

For the country, Obama's order in June to stop deporting hundreds of thousands of illegal immigrants who came to the U.S. as children—the people who would be protected in the long-stalled DREAM Act residency bill—definitely will have an effect. States like Arizona, Alabama, Georgia, Florida and Virginia (sensing a pattern?) will have to find a way to coexist with DREAMers, no matter how much state authorities would like to round them up and dump them off at the Rio Grande with a big "Hasta la vista, baby."

DREAMers are American in every way except on paper, and pro-immigrant advocates (myself included) are glad the president sees that.

Yet Chicago will be no more immigrant-friendly after Rahm's expected proposal Wednesday—to make a decades-long practice actual law—than it was before. It's as big a reform as passing a law that changes the name of Millennium Park's Cloud Gate (you know, The Bean) to, well, The Bean.

Chicago, to steal from America's own slogan, is a city of immigrants. The city is described as German, Irish, Italian or Puerto Rican more often than it's described as American. According to recent figures, nearly 30 percent of Chicagoans identify as Latinos and one in five Chicagoans is foreign-born.

The city is home to the Immigrant Youth Justice League and the Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights, groups dedicated to the fair and humane treatment of all newcomers. Since 2006, when a 100,000-person demonstration in the Loop sparked a wave of similar protests nationwide, Chicago has taken center stage for pro-immigrant marches held every year. Chicago-based U.S. Reps. Luis Gutierrez and Mike Quigley are both outspoken supporters of fair immigration reform.

But, before he was mayor, Emanuel was chief of staff in the Obama White House—the same chief of staff who repeatedly has been accused of thinking it too costly politically for the president to tackle immigration reform.

Now the mayor has decided to jump on the immigration bandwagon. Actually, he's decided to jump on the very last bandwagon of the wagon train.

Still, Chicago's pro-immigrant supporters—Latino and non-Latino alike—welcome the mayor's apparent change of heart.

The struggle for fair immigration reform seems only to be heating up, and any champion in our corner is good for the cause, even if he's doing it only because doing otherwise would be like stepping on a political land mine. There's nothing wrong with a little behavioral modification.

So, Rahm, it's good to have you on the team. Now bust out those ninja stars.

HECTOR LUIS ALAMO JR. IS A REDEYE SPECIAL CONTRIBUTOR.

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