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Aldermen attack immigration foes

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."

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