The Chicago City Council approved an ordinance Thursday that aims to prevent some undocumented immigrants from being detained or deported by federal immigration authorities.

Chicago’s “Welcoming City Ordinance” will protect undocumented immigrants from being held for immigration authorities after coming in contact with city police, unless they have been convicted of a serious crime or are a wanted criminal for whom an arrest warrant has already been issued.

Chicago’s move comes at a time of two countervailing immigration-related trends in which Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel has played a role.

Lawmakers in cities such as Washington, D.C., San Francisco, San Diego, San Jose, Cambridge, Mass., El Paso, Houston, Seattle and others have passed similar ordinances.

Police in some cities have endorsed welcoming city laws or sanctuary city ordinances, because immigrants who fear interacting with police often refuse to report crimes that they have witnessed or experienced or to provide critical information to police, they say.

In August, the federal government began accepting applications from certain young undocumented immigrants for temporary but renewable work permits and visas. Thousands of young people lined up for help applying for the program in cities across the country, including Chicago. The program was created after the President issued what the White House dubbed a “deferred action directive,” in mid June.

Emanuel -- a former Obama White House chief of staff – has said that he wants to make Chicago the most, “immigrant-friendly city in the world.” However, while working in the White House, Emanuel strongly cautioned the administration against taking on immigration reform or expending political capital to do so. Emanuel thought that such efforts would damage the administration's standing with white voters, The Huffington Post has reported.

But some states -- such as Tennessee and Georgia -- have also banned welcoming city or sanctuary city ordinances, while other states -- including Alabama, Arizona and South Carolina -- have implemented laws calling for police officers to take a more active role in trying to identify and deport undocumented immigrants.

Right now, the foreign born make up about 21 percent of Chicago's population, according to Census data. Across the country, about 12 percent of the population was born abroad and, despite what many people assume, less than a third of these individuals are believed to be living in the United States without legal permission.

The measure passed by the Chicago City Council Thursday will have little appreciable impact, the Chicago Tribune reported. Since the 1980s, an executive order calling on police not to detain undocumented immigrants for immigration status screenings in most cases has been in place.

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