Join Login

June 1st, 2016

CASE STUDY: 48 Hours to Keep Chicago a Welcoming City

Target: Mayor Rahm Emanuel. Emanuel’s previous statements meant he was already on record and we knew that the Governor wasn’t going to change his mind, so we needed to find someone who would stand up to him instead.

Demand: Do not allow Governor Rauner’s fearmongering to impact Chicago. Pledge to maintain a welcoming city and stay open to refugees from Syria and anywhere people are fleeing for safety.

Frame: We framed the campaign as upholding Chicago’s values, acting on the Mayor’s pledge to be what he called a “welcoming city” and standing up to the very unpopular Governor.

In the early Fall of 2015, images of drowned child refugees caused a wave of sympathy and statements from elected officials, including Chicago’s Mayor. But months later, Republican officials reacted to an unrelated attack in Paris by scapegoating refugees and symbolically pledging to deny them settlement in their states.

Opportunity: When asked about the Governor’s position, Mayor Emanuel said that Chicago would have to follow his lead.  That’s when we knew we had to do something. We had an opportunity to interrupt the national story of states closing their doors and push for Chicago to stand up to the fearmongering, or we would see the anti-refugee beliefs of the Governor come to define our city too.


  1. The first thing we did was find partners, a primarily Latino anti-deportation group and an Arab American organization with direct ties to the people at the center of the debate.
  2. We launched an online petition and sent out a press release publicizing the groups’ response to the Governor and our demand on the Mayor.
  3. Overnight the petition got over 1,000 signatures so we sent out another press release showing the momentum.
  4. We opened up dialogue with supportive city council members to see if they would introduce a resolution. That way the Mayor would have to choose whether to side with the Governor or the rest of the city.
  5. We announced we’d be having a march that Saturday to welcome refugees and stop deportations
  6. After the city council passed the resolution and the Mayor endorsed it, we sent out a victory statement and thanked the 5,000 petition signers.


Working with groups already engaged on the issue and who had an authentic connection to the result of the campaign is what gave the effort legitimacy, had spokespeople ready to champion the issue, and even relationships inside government as well as the press to move it forward.

Breakthrough Moment:

Deciding to target Mayor Emanuel was a crucial decision. In other states, people launched petitions for the Republican Governors to change their minds but that was highly unlikely. By putting the mayor in between his city and the Governor, we created a dilemma that he had to respond to.  

The other key moment was when we saw how quickly the petition grew. We knew we were on to something and the momentum of the petition became a news story itself.

Background and Sample Material:

Chronology of Press Follows Below:

Politico: Rauner Plan Countered by City Council

WGN: Rauner Faces Criticism for Refugee Stance

HOY: Piden compasión

UNIVISION: Chicago reafirma su estatus como santuario

Washington Times: Chicago Council Votes to Welcome Syrian Refugees

DNA INFO: Syrian Refugees Welcome Aldermen Declare

Paid for in part by Mijente PAC, 734 W Polk St., Phoenix, AZ 85007, not authorized by any candidate or candidate’s committee.