News and Commentary

Chicago Mayor Defends ‘Sanctuary City’ Policy After ICE Says Man Accused Of Raping Toddler Was Previously Deported
Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot, speaks during the U.S Conference of Mayors’ 88th Winter Meeting at the Capital Hilton in Washington, D.C., on Thursday, January 23, 2020. (Photo By Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)
Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call via Getty Images

Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot is on the defensive this weekend after Immigrations and Customs Enforcement announced that a convicted felon, now facing charges of sexually assaulting a toddler in a downtown Chicago McDonalds bathroom, was supposed to have been turned over to ICE and deported — and had been deported before.

“ICE said in a news release Thursday [Christopher] Puente was placed into Chicago police custody in June of 2019 after he was arrested for theft,” according to a Chicago ABC affiliate. “According to ICE, Chicago police were expected to hold Puente until he could be taken into their custody, as Puente was expected to be deported.”

Because Chicago is a so-called “Sanctuary City” and has lenient bail policies, Puente was released back into the community.

Puente is now charged with raping a 3-year-old girl in the bathroom of Chicago’s landmark “Rock & Roll McDonalds,” a major tourist destination just north of the city’s downtown, and just west of its “Magnificent Mile” shopping district. Puente allegedly lured the girl away from her father, who was attending to the girl’s brother inside a bathroom stall. Puente, police say, dragged the girl into his stall, locked the door, molested and assaulted her. The girl’s father, alerted by her screams, rescued her, but could not catch Puente, CPD says, who bolted from the bathroom and out the door of the McDonalds, into the street.

“Puente was being investigated for trespassing when police recognized him from the surveillance pictures because he was wearing the same clothes he has on following Monday’s attack,” ABC Chicago said in a seprate story.

Chicago’s branch of ICE says “Puente had been deported to Mexico in 2014 over a prior burglary conviction, but tried to get back in five days later, claiming to be a citizen, and later skipped out on a hearing before an immigration judge. He was ordered deported again in 2017 in absentia,” according to CBS Chicago.

“Puente has been previously convicted of burglary, forgery, trespassing, domestic battery and related offenses and has a record dating back 20 years,” CBS noted.

Now ICE is blaming Chicago’s “Welcoming City Ordinance” — and its supporters — for facilitating a horrifying crime.

“How many more victims must there be before lawmakers realize that sanctuary policies do not protect the innocent?” ICE’s Chicago field office director told CBS. “Puente should have been in ICE custody last year and removed to his home country. Instead, irresponsible lawmaking allowed him to walk free and prey on our most vulnerable.”

Lightfoot laid the blame on ICE: “If ICE is complaining, then they should do their job better, and they shouldn’t do things that are traumatizing young children,” she said, referring to ICE operations where parents are arrested in front of kids. “That’s not acceptable, and I was very clear and blunt about that. How is that right?”

“They’re critical because we have said very clearly we are a welcoming city, a sanctuary city. Chicago Police Department will not cooperate with ICE on any immigration-related business,” she added. “And that’s affected their ability to conduct immigration raids across the city. But that’s exactly our intention. We have to make sure our police department is seen as a legitimate force in all our communities.”

ICE has again requested that Puente be held in anticipation of another possible deportation. Puente is currently in jail awaiting trial on the sexual assault charges.

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