In Chicago, organizers are looking to #ErasetheDatabase of Black and Latinx folks listed as possible gang members

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 policies that increase community safety, specifically addressing 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.

In a recent analysis of the Chicago Police Department’s Strategic Subject List (SSL), a  tool used by the Chicago Police Department to 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 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,” stated Janae Bonsu, organizer with 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-Ramirez has 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.

gang database infographic

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Black Youth Project 100 (BYP100) is an activist member-based organization of Black 18-35 year olds, dedicated to creating justice and freedom through transformative leadership development, direct action organizing, advocacy and education using a Black queer feminist lens.

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.

Organized Communities Against Deportations (OCAD) is an undocumented-led group that fights deportations and criminalization of Black, Brown, and immigrant communities in Chicago and surrounding areas through grassroots organizing, legal and policy work, civil disobedience, and cross-movement building we aim to challenge the institutions that target and dehumanize us and reclaim our collective power.
Mijente is a digital and grassroots hub for Latinx and Chicanx movement building and organizing. Mijente seeks to increase the profile of policy issues that matter to Latinx communities and increase the participation of Latinx and Chicanx people in the broader movements for racial, economic, climate and gender justice.