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The Chicago City Council is expected to consider an important amendment to the Welcoming City Ordinance on Wednesday. When the ordinance passed in 2012, Mayor Rahm Emanuel pledged to make Chicago "the most immigrant-friendly city in the world."...

Making Chicago safer for immigrants

The Chicago City Council is expected to consider an important amendment to the Welcoming City Ordinance on Wednesday. When the ordinance passed in 2012, Mayor Rahm Emanuel pledged to make Chicago "the most immigrant-friendly city in the world."...

Making Chicago safer for immigrants

The Chicago City Council is expected to consider an important amendment to the Welcoming City Ordinance on Wednesday. When the ordinance passed in 2012, Mayor Rahm Emanuel pledged to make Chicago "the most immigrant-friendly city in the world." The proposed amendment is crucial, considering the nation's current anti-immigration climate. For me, the amendment is extremely personal.

As a Vietnamese immigrant in America, I have experienced many obstacles: growing up among the first immigrant families in my community, having to translate for my parents who didn't speak English, discovering early on that law enforcement was ill-equipped to assist immigrants.

In 1995, my family was among the few immigrants in our neighborhood outside of Philadelphia. By the time I was 7, our household had become notorious because of multiple police visits. Officers called to restrain my alcoholic stepfather would lecture my mother for staying in a violent relationship, essentially blaming her for the situation. To make matters worse, I had to interpret this adult conversation from English to Vietnamese so that my mother could understand. After a while, we decided it was best not to call the police, even when our lives were in danger. As a child, I could feel the lack of respect and dignity because we were immigrants.

Fast-forward to summer of 2014. I was a law intern at Asian Americans Advancing Justice/Chicago. During my first week on the job, Asian-Americans mobilized in response to a disturbing 2013 video showing Jianqing "Jessica" Klyzek, a Chinese-American woman, being beaten by a group of Chicago police officers inside the Copper Tan and Spa on the North Side. One of them yelled ethnic slurs and threatened to put her in a box and mail her away. Another struck her in the head as she was handcuffed and sprawled on the ground. She received a $150,000 settlement from the city.

Seeing the Klyzek video and reading about other incidents confirmed what I knew my whole life: Some of those tasked with protecting us view immigrants as not worthy of protection.

Chicago is at a crucial moment in which there can be real change in addressing police brutality and police accountability. I welcome the amendment prohibiting all city employees from questioning an individual's immigration status and threatening deportation. The amendment also would redefine coercion and verbal abuse to include verbal threats, and would bar city employees from using an immigrant's status or background to threaten or abuse her or him.

This effort to strengthen the Welcoming City Ordinance, combined with police accountability reforms, will bring Chicago closer to being a city where immigrants are treated the same as all residents.

Van Huynh is a law fellow at Asian Americans Advancing Justice/Chicago.

Our editors found this article on this site using Google and regenerated it for our readers.

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