CHICAGO (CBS) — In a private meeting in New York, Mayor Rahm Emanuel delivered a letter to President-elect Donald Trump, urging him to continue a federal program that allows some undocumented immigrants to avoid deportation.
The letter, signed by Emanuel and 16 other big city mayors, asked the Trump administration to continue the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) system enacted by President Barack Obama, until Congress passes a comprehensive plan to overhaul the immigration system. The federal program allows immigrants brought to the country illegally as children to avoid deportation and get work permits.
After the meeting, the mayor said he made it clear the Trump administration should embrace young immigrants who voluntarily gave the federal government their personal information so they could stay and work in the United States.
“All of us fundamentally believe that those are students. Those are also people that want to join the Armed Forces. They gave their name, their address, their phone number where they are. They’re trying to achieve the American dream. No fault of their own, their parents came here. They are something we should hold up and embrace,” he said. “We are clear, as mayors, that these are DREAMers who are seeking the American dream, and we should embrace them rather than do a bait and switch.”
According to the mayor’s letter, more than 740,000 undocumented youth have participated in DACA since it began in 2012.
“With work authorization and without the fear of deportation, these young people have been able to participate in and contribute to our cities, our country and our economy. These youth have deep economic and social ties to our nation. Many of them have been educated in American schools and employed by American business owners. They paid fees, submitted fingerprints and underwent background checks,” the letter said.
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In his letter, Emanuel said DACA is good for the national economy and national security, since the vast majority of those in the program are employed at American businesses, and many of them have started their own businesses, while others are serving in the military as translators and medical personnel.
“Ensuring DREAMers can continue to live and work in their communities without fear of deportation is the foundation of sound, responsible immigration policy. Ending DACA would disrupt the lives of close to one million young people, and it would disrupt the sectors of the American economy, as well as our national security and public safety, to which they contribute,” the letter said.
The mayor said he also spoke to Trump about his commitment to keeping Chicago a “sanctuary city” for undocumented immigrants, and said the U.S. should support immigrants like his grandfather, who fled Eastern Europe in the early 20th century to escape the pogroms.
“Chicago was a sanctuary city for my grandfather. His grandson today is the mayor of this city, which is a testament to the strength of the values and the ideals of being America,” Emanuel said.
Emanuel described it as a very good meeting, lasting about an hour, which included Trump’s controversial Chief Strategist, Steve Bannon, and his Chief of Staff, Reince Priebus.
Of course, as a former Chief of Staff to President Obama, Emanuel knows all too well about the importance of maintaining access to the White House, something that will require a lot more effort with a highly unpredictable republican in the oval office.
The meeting with Trump was prompted by a phone conversation the two had last month to discuss the White House transition. Earlier this week, the mayor confirmed Trump called him a few weeks ago after winning the race for president, because of Emanuel’s experience as a top adviser to two presidents.