Evanston aldermen Monday night unanimously adopted a so-called sanctuary city ordinance, pledging to welcome illegal immigrants and not cooperate with federal government efforts to deport them.
Michelle Vazquez, who counsels undocumented students at Evanston Township High School on their higher-education and career options, said the school supports undocumented students and that she wants the city to do so as well.
Other speakers, including high school students and a Northwestern University professor, also spoke in favor of helping immigrants make successful lives in the community.
The only objection to the proposal during public comment came from community activist Madelyn Ducre, who said the ordinance would violate federal law. “Illegal people in American are illegal,” Ducre said, suggesting the city shouldn’t be welcoming them when federal law makes their presence illegal.
The new ordinance bars police from holding a person solely on the belief that the person is not legally present in the country or based on an administrative warrant or immigration detainer that is based solely on a violation of a civil immigration law.
It also, under most circumstances, bars police from giving immigration agents access to a person in custody or to police facilities.
But the restrictions wouldn’t apply when the subject of an investigation has an outstanding criminal warrant, has been convicted of a felony, has felony charges pending or has been identified as a known gang member.
The Evanston ordinance goes further than a Chicago ordinance upon which it is largely based by prohibiting any city official from requesting information about or assisting in the investigation of the citizenship or immmigration status of any person unless required by state statute, federal regulation or court decision.
However it carves out an exception for the city’s law department to inquire about immigration status when that’s relevant to litigation to which the city may be a party.
The Evanston ordinance also bars city officials from making threats based on the citizenship or immigration status of a person or that person’s family members and would restrict employees from disclosing information about anyone’s immigration status.
It also forbids denying city services based on immigration status, unless required by law. And it requires that city officials accept foreign drivers licenses and other documents as proof of identity where an Illinois driver’s license or identification card would otherwise be accepted — except for verification of employment eligibility.
Finally the ordinance denies people who claim the city violated its rules the option of going to court to challenge the city’s action — limiting remedies to internal city employee disciplinary procedures.
About half a million of the nearly 13 million people in Illinois are believed to be undocumented. And Cook County is said to have the third largest undocumented immigrant population of any county in the nation. One researcher has estimated that there may be as many as 4,000 undocumented immigrants in Evanston.
Strong backing for sanctuary city ordinance (11/29/16)
Mayor reaffirms ‘sanctuary city’ policy (11/15/16)
Aldermen split on immigration tactics (2/19/08)