Anti-CAA resolution fails in Chicago, Mayor Lightfoot says City Council unable to weigh in

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Residents of Chicago’s 49th & 50th ward protest the anti-CAA resolution R2020-583 outside alderman Maria Hadden’s office on March 22, 2021, in Chicago. (Photo courtesy: Vandana Jhingan)

Indian Americans emerged victorious more than six months after urging the Chicago City Council to reject anti-CAA resolution R2020-583. On March 24, the Chicago City Council voted against resolution R2020-583, which classified the Indian Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) passed in December 2019 as discriminatory.

A 26-18 vote rejected the resolution proposed by Alderman Maria Elaine Hadden of Chicago’s 49th ward.

Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot stated that the council members were uncomfortable voting on a resolution without knowing what’s happening on India’s ground.

“What you saw was reluctance on the part of the city council to weigh in on an issue so far away that many did not feel that they had enough information. Many council members felt uncomfortable because we don’t know the ins and outs of what’s going on there on the ground in India,” Lightfoot told the press Wednesday.

Members of the Chicago Indian American community traveled via trolley to distribute flyers to Chicago’s 49th and 50th ward residents opposing Chicago City Council resolution R2020-583 on March 22, 2021. (Photo courtesy: Vandana Jhingan).

The US-India Friendship Council and members of the Chicago Indian American community have been working for months to urge city council members to reject the resolution because it promoted disinformation and disharmony.

Dr. Bharat Barai, chairman of the US-India Friendship Council, who led the community efforts to block the resolution, raised concerns about whether city councils should be legislating on global issues. “It’s not appropriate for the Chicago City Council, which represents nearly three million people, to make a judgment or pass resolutions about another sovereign democracy 8,000 miles away that represents 1.3 billion people,” said Barai. “It’s better if the council spends its time and resources for the residents of Chicago legislating on issues such as crime, education, and healthcare,” Barai told Desi Talk in an interview.

Alderman George A. Cardenas of Chicago’s 12th Ward, who voted against the resolution, argued that “If India is being debated in the City Council of Chicago, why not the Chinese Uighur cleansing. Why not on the Israel-Palestine conflict? How about Boko Haram and Nigeria and the exploitation of women? If we go on like this, there are many global issues. We have many pressing issues here at home that need our attention,” Cardenas said.

Alderman Jason Ervin of Chicago’s 28th ward said the city should focus its energies on challenges and problems at home. “We have more than enough work in the city of Chicago – to talk about oppression, to talk about racism, to talk about other issues that impact the members of the community. “People have the right to propose any type of resolution they wish, but unfortunately, we cannot support it,” Ervin added.

CAIR Behind Anti-CAA Resolution

Hadden says she proposed the resolution based on feedback from her South Asian constituents. But the US-India Friendship Council and members of the group allege that the Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR) was behind the effort to pass the divisive resolution. The group says that only 25 people out of more than 50,000 constituents in Hadden’s 49th ward pushed for the resolution.

“That’s hardly a large enough constituency to justify a resolution related to another nation’s policy. It’s concerning that this resolution was proposed without informing the Indian American community in the ward,” said Sohan Joshi who has lived in Chicago’s 50th ward for more than 49 years. Joshi said he doesn’t want to see the community divided in any ward. “This will be a problem for our children twenty years from now,” Joshi told Desi Talk.

The US-India Friendship Council is now demanding that the role of CAIR should be examined.

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