An Evanston City Council committee Monday voted to slap the racism label on people who disagree with them about immigration.

The five-member Human Services Committee rejected 3-2 an amendment proposed by Alderman Steve Bernstein, 4th Ward, to a resolution on immigration issues.

Bernstein’s amendment would have revised a resolution introduced by Alderman Edmund Moran, 6th Ward, to strike language that said immigration opponents are promoting “an increasingly hostile anti-immigrant and racist atmosphere” and that immigration opponents are “a vocal minority that represents neither American values nor the majority of our citizenry.”

Bernstein did succeed, on 3-2 votes, in striking criticism of farm subsidies and free trade from the resolution and a passage that tied support for immigration reform to religious beliefs.

Moran defended the resolution’s criticism of immigration opponents, saying hostility to immigrants “is a disgrace. Listening to politicians out-nasty themselves during this election cycle is repugnant to me.”

Other committee members, who’d been reluctant to tackle the immigration issue in October when Moran first raised it, continued to express reservations Monday.

Some noted that they’d received word the resolution was going to be on the committee agenda only last Friday and there’d been no opportunity for the general public to learn about it.

But faced with a room filled with resolution supporters who’d been alerted to the meeting, they ultimately all voted for the amended resolution.

However, Alderman Lionel Jean-Baptiste, 2nd Ward, got the aldermen to hold the measure in committee rather than send it to the full City Council to give time to consult with other immigrant groups.

Jean-Baptiste, an immigrant from Haiti, said the resolution’s sponsors were mostly from the Latino community and that he believed other immigrant groups — notably from Jamaica, Belize and Haiti, but from European countries as well — need to be brought into the discussion to make sure that their issues are addressed.

The resolution calls on all city departments to not condition provision of city services on immigration status, unless doing so is required by federal or state law.

Alderman Elizabeth Tisdahl, 7th Ward, asked whether supporters had any evidence of city departments taking actions that would violate the standards in the resolution, and no examples were offered.

The resolution also urges federal lawmakers to support comprehensive immigration reform that, among other things, would provide a road to citzenship for undocumented residents and provide for reunification of mixed-status families in which children hold U.S. citizenship.

“I’m just real nervous” about the resolution, Alderman Delores Holmes, 5th Ward, said, “in terms of what this might generate in our community, because we know there are haters out there.”

Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

Join the Conversation


  1. Legal immigrants vs. illegal aliens
    Immigrants are fine, as long as they are LEGAL. Illegal aliens, however, should be deported as soon as they are discovered. This is not a “racist” opinion at all. It doesn’t matter if an illegal alien is Mexican, German, Swedish, French, or South African — if he or she came here illegally, then he or she should be arrested and deported. Period.

  2. Anti-amnesty IS NOT anti-immigrant
    Once I read this proposal in it’s entirety I felt ashamed to be an Evanstonian for the first time. I am not anti-immigrant or racist. One can be against limitless, uncontrolled immigration without being racist or anti-immigrant. While Evanston originally had good intentions sheltering the refugees from El Salvador in the 1980’s with it’s sanctuary resolution, they have simply gone too far with this resolution.

    For the record, I support controlled, predictable, legal immigration, well funded interior enforcement, and border control. I take considerable offense and insult at their argumentum ad hominem attempt at labeling people as anti-immigrant and racist simply because they share different views. I become more incensed when I consider that $760 of my taxes goes to directly support illegal immigrants in IL ( while I am publicly and personally slandered by our elected officials.

    I for one, will not stand for this insult and what it represents. We are a nation of laws. If we cannot enforce our laws or protect our borders we can no longer call ourselves a sovereign nation. This city’s attempt to shelter those that violate our laws and feed off of our social system while insulting all who oppose them is tantamount to treason.

    I will do everything in my power to right the wrongs created by the introduction of this resolution.

  3. Immigration Resolution
    Last evening the Human Service Committee’s discussion of the immigration resolution had its high and disappointing moments . For me, the most disappointing comment came from Alderman Holmes, a leader for so many years in working for tolerance, a healthy environment for personal achievement and growth and for access to community benefits for all Evanston’s residents. Where would we be in the Civil Rights struggles for open and low-income housing, neighborhood child care centers, integrated schools, community development — all areas in which she stood to be counted– if she and we had said “I’m just real nervous…in terms of what this might generate in our community because we know there are haters out there” ?

    When there are “haters out there,” in our own community or in other communities, we “non-haters” need to seek each other out and stand together for what is right. As Alderman Moran stated, the hateful rhetoric of the campaigns against a reasonable resolution of our immigration crisis should not stand unchallenged. That is true whether we hear it (or fear it) in our own community or our neighboring community, or our state or our nation.

    Also disappointing were the comments of Alderman Tisdahl — who complained that there were no specific instances of township discrimination cited by the witnesses and therefore the resolution was “merely symbolic.” In the current atmosphere, for those undocumented and overstayed aliens with history and family ties in Evanston (these include Haitians, Belizians, Latinos, Eastern Europeans, Pakistanis, Indians, Thai, Vietnamese, among others), the greatest impediment to making full contribution to the community is fear of being identified and shipped away. Knowledge that if they live good, productive lives, Evanston will not act to use their national identity against them, allows our foreign-born neighbors to contribute more openly and effectively to this community, notwithstanding their immigration status.

    Finally, a comment about your crude lead sentence. I was surprised by your tone. The City Council did not “slap the racism label on people who disagree with them about immigration.” It is a statement of fact that immigration opponents are promoting “an increasingly hostile anti-immigrant and racist atmosphere.” And polls on the immigration issue do show that the majority of Americans support providing a path to work toward legal status and believe that it is not possible to solve this problem with mass deportations. A majority think immigrants are “hard-working” and “came to better their family’s life.” It is when one introduces code words like “amnesty” or refers to the undocumented as “criminals” or equate immigrants with “terrorists” that views harden.

    1. Picking your battles
      Hi Joan,
      I think it is very important how our political leaders treat people who disagree with them on important issues.
      To brand those who disagree as racist, and make no acknowledgement that reasonable people of good will can hold differing views, I think is the height of folly and invites the sort of polarization on the issue that Aldermen Holmes feared.
      To me the failure to strike that language was by far the most important and troubling aspect of the story, and that’s why I led with it.
      I personally believe that Evanston’s policy of welcoming immigrants and doing everything legally possible to ease their transition into our community is the right course.
      But I think it is liberal elitism at its worst to reflexively brand those who fear job loss to immigrant workers or other sorts of disruption to their lives from the immigrant influx as racist.
      May there be racists among the opponents? Surely. But to view all opposition as some sort of racist plot is to stoop to the level of the worst of your foes.
      — Bill

      1. Bill – Don’t we have a budget crisis?
        It appears to me the city council members are again acting like village idiots.. They can not even solve the simplest problems here, and now they want to get involved in national issues!

        They are practicing their own brand of racism here by the way – that is “liberal racism” in a Unversity Town such as Evanston – many of the people who are connected with the University who are from other counties – I would suspect the vast majority are here legally. What are Council members assuming that everyone who is non-white who is here is illegal? This just shows their total lack of understanding of the world.

        By the why the council members better be careful -if the past an ordinance that allows access to services when they can not even provide the current services correctly or on an equal basis to all citizens of Evanston- they may end up with a major lawsuit.

        I recall a Human Relation committee member did not want me to speak at a meeting – and try to stop me – the others member told her she could not. (By the the way two former member of the committee told me the committee was a big waste but that a different issue.) Frankly if I was told I could not speak – I could have pursue the matter with the federal goverment – in the end the city would have lost – by the why – the person at the state who was providing grant funding – after I told him my views got a lot more quiet. In the end the city changed what I wanted and I let it go –

        Those who want to limit free speech here who don’t like other views – need to be taken to task – good story Bill.

        By the way if the council members were really concerned about these people they would not keep on raising taxes – since many are in lower skill jobs with lower income.

      2. Immigration Resolution
        Bill– Nothing in the resolution says that all who oppose immigration reform are racists or that immigrants are the victims of a racist plot. Much less does the resolution “slap the racist label” on them all. What it says is that racism is contributing to poisoning the atmosphere for comprehensive unhysterical immigration reform. That is not the “liberal elite” speaking but many people of conscience (believers and non-believers, as Ald. Bernstein noted) from the full economic and political spectrum.

        With reference to a different but related part of the discussion (or perhaps I heard it differently than you): The woman who said that she was not opposed to immigration but that it “hurt her feelings” when anyone suggested that immigrants were doing work that Americans did not want to do was making an important point. Everyone wants something better for themselves and their family. No one wants to work at dirty jobs for a lifetime with no hope of moving to something less exploitative and better paid. It is our national disgrace that many African Americans continue to confront racism that has closed many paths to mobility. This has been exacerbated by our failure to address educational and social needs that would provide the tools for mobility. In turn, these societal failures have had the effect of committing many people of color to those dirty jobs which do not pay a living wage and placing them in competition with the undocumented, who may be considered “better employees” because they do not have the freedom to complain or refuse to be exploited or confined in this manner.

        As long as the countries of the Caribbean and Central and South America and Africa continue to have economies that cannot pay enough to support a family (sometimes less than 1/10th our daily minimum wage), immigrants from faltering economies will be drawn to this country, irrespective of fences we may build. (It’s notable that in the last year there has been a significant movement of Brazilians back to Brazil from southeast New England, more because of the improved Brazilian economy and the falling dollar than our failed immigration laws).


        1. What’s said and what’s unsaid
          Hi Joan,
          The resolution says opposition to immigration is driven by racism. It cites no other motivation.
          It offers no sympathy or compassion to those low-wage American workers who may face increased job competition from immigrants.
          No wonder two of the five aldermen at the meeting tried to strike the passage from the resolution.
          I realize that as an attorney — a highly-educated licensed professional who faces no job competition from poorly educated immigrants struggling to learn English — you may have difficulty seeing that immigration poses real challenges to some of your fellow citizens. But I think you should give it a try.
          It does not follow that we should behave in ways hostile toward the immigrants in our midst. But we should at least also extend our compassion to those who are competing with them for jobs.
          — Bill

    2. Statements of Fact
      “It is a statement of fact that immigration opponents are promoting ‘an increasingly hostile anti-immigrant and racist atmosphere.'” No in fact, it is not. The anti-immigration activists time and again claim they are for legal immigration, and simply want existing laws enforced. This is not the same thing as denigrating or promoting one race against another. The real culprits in this issue, the small businesses, agricultural and corporate interests who prey on illegal immigrants and fuel with finance rhetoric for punitive measures, continue to operate without fear of retribution. Until we recognize this, and curb our own gut-tendencies to exacerbate tensions, can we approach others and address the issue: the unrealistic expectation, given current fiscal constraints, and social indifference towards enforcing punitive measures against illegal immigrants.

  4. This has gone too far.
    This has gone too far. Evanston, a sanctuary city, is now home to city leaders who made it OFFICIAL that if you oppose ILLEGAL immigration you are a racist. What does that do? If I openly suggest anywhere in Evanston that I think immigration laws should be ENFORCED, it’s OK then to brand me a racist because the City Council has now decreed that I am a hostile racist. What’s next? Issue those who oppose illegal immigration a hefty fine? I mean it’s official – they are hostile racists. Well, I am fed up with paying the highest taxes on the North Shore and then witnessing this crazy liberal elitism. Evanston council members created a resolution to pass a transfer tax increase to pay for affordable housing and then when the voters rejected that, the council decides to consider raising the transfer tax anyway. And now, there’s talk about a 15 percent city tax increase. City Councilman Edmund Moran is a main player in all this. He should be voted straight out of office. For that matter, we should remove everyone on the Council and committees who officially brands a racist anyone who wants the borders enforced and the immigration laws, already on the books, enforced. People wake up. Take back our city from these elected loony law-breaking deviants. Yes, law breaking because it’s AGAINST the law to come into this country illegally. For an elected official to label anyone racist who wants these laws enforced is conspiring to break the law. Want to stop those who want the immigration laws enforced, , vote to brand them racist. Where does this chilling effect stop?

    1. Immigration vote not final
      So far only three of the nine aldermen have voted for the racism language in the immigration resolution. And as the story pointed out, the measure is still in committee. So, if you don’t like the wording, there’s time to suggest they change it.

  5. Suggestions for altering the resolution
    Suggestions for altering the resolution:

    -Remove the hate language. Calling anyone anti-immigrant or racist is just as ill conceived as what you purport the opposition’s views to be. If you want to extinguish hate, that goes both ways.

    -Make a distinction between illegal and legal immigrants. I fully support protecting the rights of legal immigrants. However illegal immigrants are not legal citizens and, therefore, do not qualify for such protective measures. Giving illegal immigrants special protections works directly against the laws of our Federal Government.

    -There’s a difference between “live and let live” and “aiding and abetting”. I do not suggest we start policing immigration. However, I do suggest advancing beyond the current rhetoric and making it mandatory that all people arrested for criminal acts have their immigration status checked. Releasing alleged criminals without checking such is tantamount to potentially aiding illegal immigrants.

    -Use valid identification measures. Matricula Consular cards should not be accepted, as they are too easy to counterfeit. Banks in Mexico won’t even accept a Matricula Consular for that very reason. Allowing the use of such documents makes us vulnerable to misuse and potential fraud.

    -Remove any inference that our citizens support a path to citizenship or family reunification. As a city we are far from united on these beliefs. Please do not speak for all citizens when, in fact, the city’s residents hold many different views on the topic.

  6. Shouldn’t we agree on the terminology at least?
    I wanted to discuss some of the terminology here because I think much of it is misleading. Mr. Moran, et al, if the city council is going to propose a new resolution it is important to use accurate terminology, don’t you think?

    The fact is most of those opposed to amnesty and open borders aren’t “anti-immigrant” or “racist” at all (as the resolution implies). Most are quite open to legal immigration and immigrants. They simply want our existing laws enforced. Is it so much to ask that they want to live in a community with others who respect and follow the law? I don’t think so.

    So who came up with these terms? Certainly legal immigration/border security advocates didn’t label themselves as “anti-immigrant” or “racist”. Isn’t it more probable that comprehensive reform advocates unfairly labeled the opposition that way as an argumentum ad hominem (slander) ploy to begin with? If so, isn’t it insulting, inaccurate, and misleading to add such language to the resolution?

    What are some other misleading terms? How about “undocumented immigrant”? Are there really any illegal immigrants that don’t have papers of some kind? Sure, most are forged or fraudulent, but they DO have them. So if “illegal immigrant” offends you, please come up with a term as semantically accurate and I’ll be happy to use it.

    How about “path to citizenship”? Don’t we already have one? Since I’m guessing advocates aren’t speaking of our existing system, it can only mean a couple of things. If they’re for asking illegal immigrants to leave the country and complete (not merely begin) the process outside the U.S. (like those already doing so), then it would be a “new”, “better”, or “improved” path to citizenship. However, letting illegal immigrants stay here while they go through the citizenship process is amnesty. It is amnesty (forgiveness) because we would be forgiving them for trespassing, border crossing, or overstaying a visa, which currently carry penalties including expulsion. Since they would not be expelled, it would be amnesty.

    How about “family reunification”? We already have that (in many versions) as well, don’t we? Legal immigrants can petition to bring over their loved ones and illegal immigrants are welcome to return to theirs. Since I, again, assume they aren’t referring to the existing system it implies another two probable alternatives.

    If they’re suggesting that we expedite the existing process, that would be an “improved family” reunification program. However, if they’re asking that we allow illegal immigrants amnesty just because they chose to procreate on our soil, then that already has a term. It’s called an anchor baby. Should that term also offend I’m open to equally accurate alternatives. How about infant sponsor? Or if you want to get really technical, how about citizenship procurement offspring? Okay, now I’m being silly.

    So Mr. Moran, et al., should you decide to go ahead with this resolution, I sincerely hope you consider using terms that are not only not only accurate, but consistent. As it stands you’re slandering and incorrectly portraying one side while fluffing up and glossing over the other. You can’t have it both ways.

  7. City Council Wake Up Call
    This resolution is typical Evanston. If you don’t like that you have opposition to your position, quick — slap the racist label on the opponents so they will just shut up.

    I encourage the full City Council to see this resolution as an opportunity to demonstrate to the citizens of Evanston that they have had a wake-up call. Focus on improving the quality of life in Evanston. Reject efforts to come embroiled in national issues that do not directly affect the city.

    The City Council is running a city. One alderperson had the common sense to ask if anyone had evidence of “city departments taking actions that would violate the standards in the resolution” and “no examples were offered.” So what is the problem that the City Council needs to address? There isn’t one.

    But look around: the City has real problems. An enormous unfunded pension debt, a proposed 15 percent increase in the City budget, city staff levels that have risen faster than the population, pretty regular shootings, a winter crime wave in southern Evanston, a clueless City Manager who thinks that Evanston is Naperville.

    The wake-up call is there. Spend your time running the City. It certainly looks like you haven’t been.

    And yes, Alderman Moran needs to go. Can anyone answer why they vote for this guy? His comments on the gang ordinance were truly from the Land of Oz. He does not appear to be able to recognize problems or build coalitions to address them. These are minimal skills for anyone serving in an elected position. His major “contributions”: he has his pet projects and funds them with taxpayer money.

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