The investigation comes after more than a year of campaigning for Chicago to be a real ‘Sanctuary’ for its residents by, amongst other demands, eliminating the Gang Database.
Chicago, IL – TodayInspector General Joseph M. Ferguson announced that the City of Chicago Office of Inspector General will begin a review into the City of Chicago’s Gang Database. The review comes after a year-long campaign exposing the impact of the Gang Database on U.S.-born and immigrant communities of color.
“The decision of the Office of Inspector General to review the City of Chicago for the use of the Gang Database confirms what our communities have been saying for months: That the Chicago Police Department has a dangerous tool they use to criminalize communities of color,” said Janae Bonsu, Black Youth Project 100 (BYP100) and principal author of the Report. “These practices have devastating effects on our communities, from decreasing job opportunities, to increasing risk of deportation. The database needs to be eliminated and we will continue to work to make sure that the City has policies that prioritize the safety of our communities instead of policing and incarceration,” she concluded.
The coalition of organizations calls on the Mayor of Chicago and the City Council to take action to protect its residents and put a moratorium on the sharing of information in the Gang Database with other agencies and stop adding names to the list, while the Office of the Inspector General’s investigation takes place.
“We welcome the review from the OIG. At the same time, our communities are in crisis and the City of Chicago has a responsibility to do what it can to keep us safe. Every day the Trump administration is sending immigration agents to target our families and neighbors. The Gang Database is literally a list that ICE uses to justify these attacks, and the City of Chicago has a responsibility to take action now,” stated Rosi Carrasco, member of Organized Communities Against Deportation, and undocumented organizer against the gang database.
According to an analysis of the Strategic Subject List, early 65,000 people in the Chicago area are gang affiliated. 74.5% of people listed as “gang affiliated” are Black, 21.4% are Latinx, 60.7% are less than 30 years old, and 96.9% are male. The campaign to end theChicago Gang Database, has worked for the last year to research and expose the database, including releasing theTracked & Targeted: Early Findings on Chicago’s Gang Database, report, and advocating with the City of Chicago to end the practice of tagging individuals as potential gang members.
Sign the petition demanding that Mayor Rahm Emanuel and the Chicago City Council Eliminate the Gang Database!
Report released today shows how the Chicago gang database decreases job opportunities for Black and Latino youth, increases levels of policing in communities of color, and puts city’s immigrants at risk for deportation.
Chicago, IL — A new report from the University of Illinois at Chicago’s Policing in Chicago Research Group, Tracked and Targeted: Early Findings on Chicago’s Gang Database, provides the most comprehensive and up-to-date information on the Chicago Gang Database and the harms that it causes Black and Latinx communities in Chicago.
“The report makes clear why communities of color in Chicago are upset about the gang database. The CPD overwhelmingly targets Black and Latinx youth for inclusion in the database,” says Andy Clarno, director of the Policing in Chicago Research Group that conducted the research. “And, as the report shows, federal law enforcement agencies such as ICE and the FBI have access to this information, putting immigrants on the list at heightened risk for deportation. People on the database are also subject to police harassment as well as more severe bail, bond and sentencing decisions,” he concluded.
Janae Bonsu, the lead author of the report, and organizer with the advocacy group Black Youth Project 100 (BYP100) adds, “This report shows that CPD’s targeted surveillance of Black and Latinx people in Chicago is not only steeped in inaccuracies, but is likely unconstitutional and has real implications for people’s lives. But there’s still information that we don’t know and the City needs to be fully transparent about their policies and practices of this state-sanctioned profiling, and accountable for its adverse effects.”
The report includes information on:
The Chicago Police Department’s (CPD) increasing emphasis on “data-driven” policing
The ways that gang affiliation is documented and recorded by the CPD;
CPD policies regarding gangs in Chicago;
Demographic information on the race and gender of people labeled “gang affiliated”
The ways that the CPD shares information with federal law enforcement agencies, including DHS and the FBI;
Harms caused by the gang database to communities of color;
The consequences for U.S. born and immigrant Chicagoans for being labeled as gang members;
The campaign organizing against the gang database in Chicago; and
Recommendations to address the issues named in the report.
The report has been sent to Chicago Aldermen and other elected officials as part of a city-wide campaign to end the Chicago Gang Database. There are more than 128,000 people on the Chicago Gang Database. A large majority of the list (95%) is Black and Latinx, disproportionately affecting communities of color. As this report highlights, approximately 11% of Chicago’s total Black population, 4% of the Latino population, and 0.6 %of the white population are in the gang database.
The Campaign to Expand Sanctuary is a cross-issue interorganizational collaboration to defy, defend, and expand what it means for Chicago to be a Sanctuary City. The campaign pushes for the City to strengthen its protections for immigrants and refugees and address criminalization and police violence against Black people and communities of color. The campaign is anchored by Black Youth Project 100, Mijente, and Organized Communities Against Deportations. Read more at http://erasethedatabase.com/
[12.6.17] After a settlement was reached between the City of Chicago andWilmer Catalan-Ramirez, organizers ask when the City review entire Gang Database process.
Chicago – Today Wilmer Catalan-Ramirez and his family announced that the City of Chicago has admitted error in including him in the “Gang Database,” a mistake which led Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents to Mr. Catalan-Ramirez’s door during a nation-wide operation targeting suspected gang members.
As of the afternoon of December 5th, a letter has been attached to Mr. Catalan-Ramirez’s record in the Chicago Police Department’s Citizen and Law Enforcement Analysis and Reporting (CLEAR) System, which states that there is no proof in the database, and that he does not fit the definition of a gang member under state statute, including being “a person who actually and in fact belongs to a gang” (740 ILCS 147/10).
Mr. Catalan-Ramirez has been in immigration detention since March of this year and fighting his deportation in court. Although the City’s letter clears him of the gang allegations and has no objections to his relief, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) has refused to release him.
“I am thankful for the letter that admits their mistake, but my family is still suffering the consequences” statedCelene Adame, Mr. Catalan Ramirez’s partner and mother of his two children. “If Wilmer’s name had not been on the Database, to begin with, immigration agents would not have raided our home, and we could be spending Christmas together,” she said. Ms. Adame has been a strong advocate against Mr. Catalan-Ramirez’s detention and the Chicago Gang Database.
“Unfortunately once our community members are in the hands of immigration agents, we’re not sure whether we’ll get them back. Although we are glad to see that the City is willing to admit their mistake, it’s too little too late,” statedXanat Sobrevilla, an organizer with Organized Communities Against Deportations (OCAD). “The City of Chicago needs to admit that there are systematic problems with the entire Gang Database, and as a start, stop putting names into this list, review its content, create avenues for people to seek their removal from the list, and work with our communities to find real ways to keep our neighborhood safe that do not rely on criminalization and policing,” she concluded.
The admission comes after organizers involved in the Campaign to Expand Sanctuary in Chicagopublished an analysis of Chicago’s Gang Database, showing that 96% of the nearly 65,000 people identified as potential gang members are Black or Latinx. Regarding that data, Janae Bonsu, the Policy Director of Black Youth Project 100 (BYP100) and one of the students leading the research, stated: “The data shows that the Chicago Gang Database is a target list of Black and Brown people who will be the victims of immigration raids, of incarceration and criminalization, and further policing.”
(Chicago, Illinois) – In a recent analysis of the Chicago Police Department’s Strategic Subject List(SSL), a tool used by the Chicago Police Departmentto predict who will be involved in gun violence, researchers at the University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC) found that amongst those labeled as potential gang members 75% are Black and 21% are Latinos.
“The data shows that the Chicago Gang Databaseis a target list of Black and Brown people who will be the victims of immigration raids, of incarceration and criminalization, and further policing,” stated Janae Bonsu, the Policy Director of Black Youth Project 100 (BYP100) and one of the students leading the research.
The research, under the direction of UIC Professor Andy Clarno,also revealed that there are 64,948 people in the Chicago area that are suspected to be gang affiliated. Out of the 64,948 people listed as having a gang affiliation, and 41.6% are Black males under 30. In addition, 67.5% have never been arrested for violent offenses or unlawful use of a weapon, and 20.9% have never been arrested for violent offenses, unlawful use of a weapon, or narcotics. That means more than 13,500 people on the CPD gang database have never been arrested for the three principal activities that the CPD considers gang-related.
Being labeled as a suspected gang member has serious consequences for immigrant and U.S.-born, Black and Latino residents of Chicago. For immigrants, including Legal Permanent Residents (LPR) and Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) recipients, being on the gang database could mean being targeted for an immigration raid or deportation, as the lawsuit against the City of Chicago by Wilmer Catalan-Ramirezhas highlighted. For U.S.-born Black and Latinx people, it could mean being disqualified from getting a job, being denied bond or given higher bonds in local courts, and increased criminal sentences.
“Having a list for immigration enforcement and police to target does not live up to the promise of a city that calls itself a ‘Sanctuary,’” stated Tania Unzueta, Policy Director of Mijente and one of the organizers against the Chicago Gang Database. “We urge City Council and the Mayor to eliminate this list and work on solutions for our communities that invest in resources and real solutions to reduce violence and invest in our neighborhoods” she concluded.
The release of this data coincides with the publication of another studyrelating to the other CPD list containing information on people identified as potential gang members, the Citizen and Law Enforcement Analysis Reporting (CLEAR), which breaks down in a similar pattern, with 94% of the list comprised of Black and Latinx Chicagoans.
In January 2017, BYP100, OCAD, and Mijente, launched a campaign to re-define what it means for Chicago to be a “Sanctuary City” to push forward community initiatives and municipal policies that increase community safety, specifically addressing the criminalization of U.S.-born and immigrant Black and Latinx people. In addition to eliminating the Chicago Gang Database, the campaign includes the removal of the carve-outs from Chicago’s Welcoming City Ordinance, which exclude certain immigrants from protections from deportation provided by the city – including people in the Chicago Gang Database.
Chicago Gang Database: Facts and Figures
Policing in Chicago Research Group at the University of Illinois at Chicago December 2017
In May 2017, the Chicago Police Departmentreleased a redacted version of its “Strategic Subjects List” (SSL) – a tool used by CPD to predict who will be involved in gun violence. Each person receives a score of 1 to 500 based on individual arrest and victimization records as well as networks of known and suspected associates, with higher scores supposedly indicating a greater likelihood of involvement in gun violence.
The SSL includes a column indicating whether an individual is “gang affiliated.” Because the CPD does not publish information about its gang database, the SSL provides the most accurate available information about the CPD’s gang database.
Overall, nearly 400,000 people are on the SSL.52% of people on the list are Black, 25% are Latinx, 45% are less than 30 years old, and 76% are male (Note: CPD uses binary gender codes). 285,000 people have scores greater than 250 – indicating that they are considered priority targets for the CPD. Yet 162,000 of these priority targets (57%) have not been arrested for the four crimes included in the SSL: violent offenses, unlawful use of a weapon, narcotics, or domestic violence.
56% of Black men in Chicago ages 20-29 have an SSL score;
46% of Black men and boys in Chicago ages 10-29 have an SSL score;
73% of Black men and boys in West Garfield Park ages 10-29 have an SSL score.
Below is the breakdown of SSL scores for Black men under 30 in 13 neighborhoods with high arrest rates:
SSL black men <30
WEST GARFIELD PARK
GREATER GRAND CROSSING
EAST GARFIELD PARK
NEAR SOUTH SIDE
* These areas actually have more black men =<30 with SSL than census reported total number of black men age 10-34 (census reports age 30-34 as a chunk).
According to the SSL, nearly 65,000 people in the Chicago area are gang affiliated. 74.5% of people listed as “gang affiliated” are Black, 21.4% are Latinx, 60.7% are less than 30 years old, and 96.9% are male.
Out of the 64,948 people listed as having a gang affiliation:
72.7% are Black males. 1.8% are Black females;
20.4% are Latinx males, 1% are Latinx females;
41.6% are Black males under 30, and 14.4% are Latino males under 30;
67.5% have never been arrested for a violent offense or unlawful use of a weapon;
20.9% have never been arrested for a violent offense, unlawful use of a weapon, or narcotics
While gangs are often blamed for gun violence in Chicago, 67.5% of the people identified as “gang affiliated” on the SSL have never been arrested for violent offenses or unlawful use of a weapon. This raises important questions about how more than 43,000 people ended up on the CPD gang database. In fact, the CPD recently acknowledged that gang membership cannot predict participation in gun violence and therefore dropped gang affiliation from the current version of the SSL algorithm.
In addition, 20.9% of alleged gang members have never been arrested for violent offenses, unlawful use of a weapon, or narcotics. That means more than 13,500 people on the CPD gang database have never been arrested for the three principal activities that the CPD considers gang-related.
The University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC) Policing in Chicago Research Group is a workshop that brings faculty and students at UIC into conversation with community organizations in Chicago. Led by Dr. Andy Clarno, the research group is exploring the ways that advanced data analysis and coordination between local and federal law enforcement agencies have transformed policing in Chicago.
Chicago, IL – Three life-size representations of statistics that show how Chicago and Mayor Emanuel have failed to live up to the claim of being a “Sanctuary” city and instead continue to uplift policies that center policing and incarceration, andfail to protect people from deportations. The three structures, the tallest of which is a 12-foot bar graph, include:
Police deaths: A series of coffins and bodies to represent that 88% of the people hit or killed by the Chicago police between 2008 and 2015 are Black or brown.
The role of the Chicago Police Department’s Gang database has been brought to the forefront by the case of an immigrant father from Back of the Yards, Wilmer Catalan-Ramirez, who has filed a lawsuit against the City of Chicago for its role in directing immigration enforcement to his door by wrongfully claiming that he is a gang member. Since then, a coalition of organizations has taken on the gang database, both as it relates to its effects on US-born and immigrant Chicagoans. For US-born Chicagoans, it can mean increased penalties and fine in courts, decreased employment opportunities, and being unable to benefit from government and state programs.
Tomorrow, the Chicago City Council will consider two policies related to policing and immigration enforcement. The first is an ordinance that would allocate $95 million to fund a new training academy for police. The mayor proposes the new academy to be opened in the same neighborhood where six schools were recently closed. A campaign calling for the rejection of the ordinance is calling for that money to instead be spent on schools, mental health centers, after-school and job-training programs, and investment in communities, instead of expanding resources for police.
Organized Communities Against Deportations (OCAD) is a community-based organization in Illinois that organizes against unfair and inhumane immigration enforcement practices that impact immigrant communities.
Black Youth Project 100 (BYP100) is an activist member-based organization of Black 18-35-year-olds, dedicated to creating justice and freedom for all Black people.
[9/18/17] Documents released to Wilmer Catalan-Ramirez’s family reveal the circumstances that led four Chicago Police Officers to identify the immigrant father of three as a gang member leading Immigration and Customs Enforcement Agents (ICE) to raid his home and detain him. The four Chicago Police Officers named during these interactions were recently added to the ongoing federal lawsuit against the City of Chicago for their responsibility in the detention and potential deportation of Catalan-Ramirez.
Chicago, IL – Information regarding the four contact cards for Mr. Wilmer Catalan-Ramirez was released by federal court in an ongoing lawsuit showing that the City of Chicago and the Chicago Police Department (CPD) are responsible for maintaining a gang database that lacks any due process, is arbitrary, and contains false information.
The contact cards contained the names of four police officers responsible for labeling Mr. Catalan Ramirez as a gang member, which led immigration agents to Mr. Catalan-Ramirez’s home where he was taken and placed into deportation. Chicago Police Officers Ryan King, Tomas Rosales, Angel Colon, and Samuel Lopez, were recently added to Mr. Catalan Ramirez’s lawsuit against the City of Chicago as the individuals who“wrongfully labeled Mr. Catalan-Ramirez as a Chicago street gang member and included him in CPD’s Gang Database,”reads the amended complaint filed by the MacArthur Justice Center at the Northwestern Pritzker School of Law and the National Immigration Project of the National Lawyers Guild.
“The City of Chicago and those police officers are responsible for my husband’s detention and separation from his children,” saidMs. Celene Adame, Mr. Catalan-Ramirez’s partner and a member of Organized Communities Against Deportations (OCAD). “The Chicago Police judge how we dress, how we talk, where we live who we talk to, the color of our skin. Instead of investigating, they make assumptions about us and do not give us chances to defend ourselves by putting us on their lists,” she stated.
“Mayor Emanuel and the Chicago Police Department are directly responsible for Wilmer’s detention and for putting our community members at risk,” explained Xanat Sobrevilla, who has been working closely with Catalan-Ramirez’s family on behalf of OCAD since he was detained.“Actions of these police officers in Wilmer’s case show why the entire gang database needs to be reviewed and taken apart, particularly at a time when the Trump administration is using this information to target our communities,” she concluded.
The amended complaint includes specific information regarding the events that led Mr. Catalan-Ramirez to be placed in the Chicago Gang Database, and include that:
On June 16, 2015, CPD Officers Ryan King and Tomas Rosales approached Mr. Catalan-Ramirez while he was outside his home in the Back of the Yards neighborhood. According to the Officers, the reason for stopping Mr. Catalan-Ramirez was because he was loitering with another individual in a known Latin Saint street gang/narcotic area and an area of recent gang violence. As the lawsuit explains, Mr. Catalan-Ramirez was in actuality spending time with his friends and their children outside. The Defendant Officers subsequently filled out a contact card in which they labeled Mr. Catalan-Ramirez a Latin Saints gang member and entered his information into CPD’s Gang Database.
A subsequent entry in CPD’s gang database on November 21, 2016, lists Mr. Catalan-Ramirez as a Satan Disciple gang member. The Satan Disciples and the Latin Saints are rival gangs; both claim territory in the Back of the Yards neighborhood. On that day, Mr. Catalan-Ramirez was in his vehicle driving a few blocks from his home when CPD Officers Angel Colon and Samuel Lopez pulled him over for allegedly failing to stop at a stop sign. The Defendant Officers proceeded to arrest Mr. Catalan-Ramirez for failing to stop at a stop sign and driving on a suspended license. The Officers then entered Mr. Catalan-Ramirez’s information into CPD’s gang database and labeled him as a Satan Disciple.
The amended lawsuit explains that the four CPD officers “wrongly assumed Mr. Catalan-Ramirez was a gang member because he was a young Latino who lived in a neighborhood that is considered to be gang territory.” It also points out that none of the officers gave Mr. Catalan-Ramirez a chance to look at any evidence against him or the chance to defend himself, and did not inform him of being listed as a suspected gang member by Chicago police.
Community organizations part of the Campaign to Expand Sanctuary are advocating for a review of the way in which Chicago Police officers identify individuals as gang members and how this information is shared with ICE and used to target individuals like Mr. Catalan Ramirez for deportation. Mr. Catalan-Ramirez is represented in the lawsuit by the Roderick and SolangeMacArthur Justice Center at the Northwestern Pritzker School of Law and the National Immigration Projectof the National Lawyers Guild. Celene Adame, his partner and mother to their children, has been an outspoken advocate as part of the campaign to expose the workings of the Chicago Gang Database and in support of her husband. She is a member of OCAD.
[9/20/17] Today OCAD is releasing the records of misconduct and abuse of six law enforcement agentsresponsible for for wrongfully identifyingWilmer Catalan-Ramirez,an immigrant father of 3 from the Back of the Yards neighborhood, as a potential gang member, leading Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents to raid his home and take him into detention.
The records of the police officers are relevant because, without any checks and balances or due process, the Chicago Gang Database relies completely on the word of police officers. By continuing to ignore the problems of the gang database and the Chicago Police Department, the City of Chicago is a complicit partner in Trump’s deportation efforts and continues to lack protections for its residents.
The list of law enforcement agents involved in Mr. Catalan-Ramirez’s detention includes Commander Christoph Kennedy, Commander Alfred Nagode, as well as Police Officers Samuel Lopez, Angel Colon, Tomas Rosales, and Ryan King. The four police officers were added to the complaint against the City of Chicago at the start of the September.
Have a collective 60 reports of use of force measured by the number of Tactical Response Reports (TRR) in their records. Two of the officers, Lopez and Colon, each have 18 reports of use of force, putting them amongst the top 5% of Chicago police officers in reports for use of force.
Have been the subject of internal investigations or complaints by Chicagoans 58 times. Officer Ryan King accounts for 17 of those complaints, putting him within the top 11% of all officers with the highest number of complaints in Chicago.
Have cost theChicago taxpayers $600,000 in payouts for settled court cases. Officer Lopez alone is responsible for $525,000 of those payouts, when he took part in chasing a 17 year old with autism into his family’s restaurant, “where they pushed his father to the ground and beat the young man in front of his parents.” According to the Chicago Reporter database, “Police threatened the family when they asked officers to explain what had happened.”
During two separate incidents, these four police officers identified Catalan-Ramirez as a member of two different and opposing gangs in the Back of the Yards community. As the amended lawsuit explains, the four CPD officers under the supervision of the two Commanders “wrongly assumed Mr. Catalan-Ramirez was a gang member because he was a young Latino who lived in a neighborhood that is considered to be gang territory.” It also points out that none of the officers gave Mr. Catalan-Ramirez a chance to look at any evidence against him or the chance to defend himself, and did not inform him of being listed as a suspected gang member by Chicago police.
The release of the documents is part of an on-going campaign to get Chicago to review the Chicago Gang Database processes and contents, including potential civil rights and constitutional violations. The groups are part of the Campaign to Expand Sanctuary in Chicago. Mr. Catalan-Ramirez is represented by the Roderick and Solange MacArthur Justice Center at the Northwestern Pritzker School of Law and the National Immigration Project of the National Lawyers Guild in the lawsuit.
Police Officer’s Records
Records of Police Officers and Commanders Named in Gang Database Lawsuit against the City of Chicago and the law enforcement officers for their role in helping Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) erroneously identify Wilmer Catalan-Ramirez as a gang member, leading to the separation from his family and potential deportation. The records were obtained through Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) Requests and through research in the Chicago Reporter’s Settling for Misconduct database for Organized Communities Against Deportations and the Campaign to Expand Sanctuary in Chicago.
Commander Christoph Kennedy:
Appointed date: 6/29/92
Promoted to his current position: 12/16/08
Tactical Response Reports (TRRs): 2
Percentile of all officers for use of force: 48.6%
Internal Investigations and Citizen Complaints (CRs): 2
Sustained CRs: 0
Percentile of all officers for CRs: 26.6%
Court cases in which he is named and a settlement has been paid out: 0
Police Officer Samuel Lopez:
Rank: Police Officer
Appointed date: 10/29/07
Tactical Response Reports (TRRs): 18
Percentile of all officers for use of force: 96.9%
Taser Use: 3
Internal Investigations and Citizen Complaints (CRs): 11
Sustained CRs: 0
Percentile of all officers for CRs: 89.8%
Court cases in which he has been named and a settlement has been paid out: 1
Settlements and fees associated with the case: $525,000
Police Officer Angel Colon:
Rank: Police Officer
Appointed date: 12/5/05
Tactical Response Reports (TRRs): 18
Percentile of all officers for use of force: 95%
Chemical weapons use: 1
Internal Investigations and Citizen Complaints (CRs): 12
Sustained CRs: 0
Percentile of all officers for CRs: 87.3%
Police Officer Tomas Rosales:
Rank: Police Officer
Appointed date: 8/28/06
Tactical Response Reports (TRRs): 9
Percentile of all officers for TRRs: 85.9%
Internal Investigations and Citizen Complaints (CRs): 6
Sustained CRs: 0
Percentile of all officers for CRs: 69.3%
Police Officer Ryan King:
Rank: Police Officer
Appointed date: 10/28/02
Tactical Response Reports (TRRs): 8
Percentile of all officers for TRRs: 78%
Internal Investigations and Citizen Complaints (CRs): 17
Sustained CRs: 0
Percentile of all officers for CRs: 89.5%
Court cases he’s named in which a settlement was paid out: 1
Settlements and fees associated with the case: $75,000
Commander Alfred Nagode:
Appointed date: 12/5/88
Last promoted date: 9/16/07
Tactical Response Reports (TRRs): 5
Percentile of all officers for TRRs: 67.6%
Internal Investigations and Citizen Complaints (CRs): 10
Sustained CRs: 0
Percentile of all officers for CRs: 67.9%
Court cases he’s named in which a settlement was paid out: 0
In a “broken windows” fashion, the Chicago Police Department sustains a gang database of its residents. They say this is in efforts to stay ahead on crime. They also seek to punish those on the list to the fullest extent of the law when the opportunity presents itself.
As of last week, CPD and it’s gang database are at the center of a recent lawsuit after Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) raided the home of Wilmer Catalan-Ramirez. This happened after incorrect information about him surfaced through this database, identifying him as a gang member. Not only is the department being hit with a lawsuit, they will also be answering to a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request about how the database is used. The suit was filed on behalf of BYP100, Organized Communities Against Deportations (OCAD), and the MacArthur Justice Center.
Simply, the gang database is an excuse to justify further surveillance and excessive force against Black and Brown folks in this very sensitive time regarding citizenship.
Background on the lawsuit
On March 27, Catalan-Ramirez was dragged from his home after ICE officers asked his wife to identify a man from a photo they were looking for. That man wasn’t Wilmer Catalan-Ramirez. But, they pushed past his wife through their front door, guns drawn, took him and detained him anyway.
One of the biggest problems with this scenario is that it is unclear how Catalan-Ramirez ended up in the database. He has no known gang affiliations. The FOIA aims to answer that question and others such as: How does CPD share information with ICE? What processes are used to maintain the data and it’s accuracy? What are the demographics of people within the database? And, are there any civil rights complaints – internal or external – regarding those listed in the database?
In a joint press release from OCAD, BYP100 Chicago, and the MacArthur Justice Center, OCAD organizer Rosie Carrasco said “Every time that the Chicago Police Department shares information about any of us with immigration enforcement they are violating Chicago’s promise to be a Sanctuary City and to protect us from President Trump’s policies. The City of Chicago must look at how its policies not only criminalize people of color and feed us into Trump’s deportation machine.”
Sanctuary Cities, legislative changes, and the increase in deportations
“Sanctuary Cities” have become a hot button issue around the country with the current president’s threats of deportation. A Sanctuary City limits it’s cooperation with the federal government around immigration and deportation. For cities like Chicago, that status is important to a large percentage of the population that identify as undocumented. This has major economic implications as we saw in February on A Day Without an Immigrant when over 50 Chicago businesses closed in support.
Barack Obama’s presidency marked higher numbers in deportations. That period is often framed as “A Shift from Returns to Removals”, meaning formally removing folks from the U.S. increased in comparison to prior administrations. The idea of returns focuses on individuals trying to enter the U.S. illegally from Canada or Mexico.
However, the immigration and deportation processes under Obama did not start with Obama.
In 1996, President Bill Clinton signed the Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act into law. Human Rights Watch says this law “eliminated key defenses against deportation and subjected many more immigrants, including legal permanent residents, to detention and deportation.” The IIRIRA criminalized immigrants by allowing the government to detain and deport them for a range of nonviolent criminal convictions. By September 11, 2001 the processes and tools under the IIRIRA were fully resourced and functioning to further criminalize Brown folks in America.
In 2002, the federal government signed agreements with local and state law enforcement agencies to give them powers of immigration enforcement locally. Then, in 2003, the Department of Homeland Security was established, increasing the number of ICE agents from 2,700 to 5,000. ICE is currently authorized to employ 21,000 agents with the current president looking to increase that number by 15,000.
One of those agreements between the federal government and local agencies is the gang database in Chicago. It is hard to track down information about the database’s origins or how many names are on it. But, this is something the FOIA will hopefully change and illuminate publicly.
How the gang database is being used today
The question emerges:how can ICE raid homes, detain, and deport people in the Sanctuary City of Chicago?
Well, individuals listed in the gang database are not protected by the sanctuary status of a city, of course.
Both the BYP100-Chicago chapter and OCAD are in coalition to expand the definition of sanctuary for Chicago residents. The goal: to further protect Black and Brown people targeted by police and state violence – undocumented or not.
This isn’t to amend or reform aspects of the gang database. The purpose is to eliminate it completely.
The MacArthur Justice Center notes that – nationwide – these databases are tools of racial profiling. Worse yet, they are often inaccurate. The gang database in Chicago is another justification used to harshly enforce law and order that upholds the oppressive interests of white supremacy. It also asserts white supremacist ideals as to who is good enough to stay within the U.S. and who the “bad hombres” are who should be criminalized, detained, and/or deported. Eliminating the gang database in Chicago will serve as an example of how to reverse policies and funding that have incrementally and violently challenged the livelihood of Black and Brown folks across the country.
“If Chicago is serious about real sanctuary and ending criminalization for all it’s residents, releasing this information is a minimal step towards that end,” said Janae Bonsu, BYP100 National Public Policy Chair in the joint press release. “The gang database has allowed for the rampant targeting of Black and Brown people in Chicago with no accountability for too long. We’re requesting these data as a first step towards bringing the functions of the database out of obscurity,” she stated.
[5/4/17] As part of the campaign to make Chicago a real sanctuary city, immigrant and Black-led groups file request for information from the City of Chicago, as start of campaign to expose the role of the gang database in criminalizing and deporting community members.
The request was filed on the same day thatWilmer Catalan-Ramirez, a Chicago man whose home was raided by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE),filed a lawsuit naming the City of Chicagoand the Chicago Police Department as responsible for sharing incorrect information with ICE that wrongfully identified Mr. Catalan-Ramirez as a gang member.
Immigrant rights and Black-led groups await the response from the city of Chicago after filing a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request regarding the Chicago Police Department’s gang database. The groups, Organized Communities Against Deportations (OCAD) and Black Youth Project 100 (BYP100), represented by theMacArthur Justice Center at the Northwestern Pritzker School of Law, filed the FOIA on Monday May 1st.
Some of the information requested includes:
Sharing information with ICE:The policies of the city of Chicago on what information they share with immigration enforcement about people who have come into contact with Chicago police, such as their criminal record, names, addresses, or whether they are in the gang database. In addition, the number of individuals whose information has been shared with ICE;
Maintenance and Accuracy of Data:Information on whether there are any processes to update, maintain, and check the accuracy of, information on whether individuals are part of a gang, as well as the policies and training for officers as to how they identify whether someone is part of a gang;
Racial Demographics:Statistics on the race and ethnicity of people who are identified as being part of a gang by the Chicago Police Department or are part of the “Strategic Subject List,” a tool used to assess whether an individual’s criminal activities “are on the rise;”
Due Process:Any existing policies on whether people can be notified of their inclusion in the Gang Database, Gang Book, or Strategic Subject List, as well as whether individuals can be removed or challenge their inclusion in these;
Civil Rights Complaints:Any documents regarding civil rights investigations, internal or external, including complaints of racial profiling, sweeps, or unfair arrests.
The two groups, OCAD and BYP100, along with Mijente, have been leading a local campaign urging the city of Chicago expand what it means to be a “Sanctuary City” to protect immigrants and US born people of color, particularly those who are targeted by local police. Exposing and eliminating the gang database has jumped to the top of the agenda this week after it became clear that Mr. Catalan-Ramirez’s targeting by ICE was in part a responsibility of the Chicago police.
The organizations involved in the campaign issued the following statements:
“Every time that the Chicago Police Department shares information about any of us with immigration enforcement they are violating Chicago’s promise to be a Sanctuary City and to protect us from President Trump’s policies, saidRosi Carrasco, OCAD organizer. “The City of Chicago must look at how its policies not only criminalize people of color and feed us into Trump’s deportation machine,” she concluded.
“If Chicago is serious about real sanctuary and ending criminalization for all it’s residents, releasing this information is a minimal step towards that end,” said Janae Bonsu,BYP100 National Public Policy Chair. “The gang database has allowed for the rampant targeting of Black and Brown people in Chicago with no accountability for too long. We’re requesting these data as a first step towards bringing the functions of the database out of obscurity,” she stated.
“President Trump is going after our communities by using law enforcement to target, detain, and incarcerate us. As we are fighting for survival, we cannot tolerate ‘Sanctuary’ cities in name only. Exposing and tackling the gang database is both about protecting our families and our neighbors, and pushing Chicago to be an example for the country for what resistance and protection should look like,” stated Tania Unzueta, Policy Director at Mijente.
“Across the country Gang databases have proven to be a deeply flawed and sometimes unlawful law enforcement tool. Databases institutionalize racial profiling by targeting Black and Brown people, are over-inclusive and rife with inaccuracies. The public has a right to know how CPD is using public funds to administer these racist, problematic public safety strategies,” stated Sheila Bedi, attorney at the MacArthur Justice Center.
Below is the document that was filed at the Chicago Police Department FOIA office:
The organizers and their attorneys expect a response from the City of Chicago as early as next week. If records are not forthcoming the community groups and their counsel are prepared to file litigation to seek their release. In the meantime, they are advocating for the information to be released through conversations with the City and members of the Chicago City Council.
Organized Communities Against Deportations (OCAD) is an undocumented-led group that organizes against the deportation and criminalization of Black, Brown and immigrant communities in Chicago and surrounding areas (organizedcommunities.org)
Black Youth Project 100 (BYP100) is an activist member-based organization of Black 18-35 year olds, dedicated to creating justice and freedom for all Black people (www.byp100.org)