Evanston Mayor Elizabeth Tisdahl will ask aldermen Monday to adopt a new “sanctuary city” ordinance modeled largely on one adopted earlier this fall in Chicago.

The Chicago ordinance, introduced by 49th Ward Alderman Joe Moore, was approved unanimously by Chicago’s City Council.

The Chicago ordinance and the one proposed for Evanston, both labeled “Welcoming City” ordinances, bar 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.

They also, under most circumstances, bar 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 proposed Evanston ordinance goes further than the Chicago version 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 would bar 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 would deny 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.

The ordinance states that achieving cooperation of all persons — with or without documented status — is essential to achieve the city’s goals of protecting life and property, preventing crime and resolving problems.

Earlier this month the mayor reaffirmed the city’s existing sanctuary city policies, which were based on a City Council resolution adopted in 2008 and which, in practice, has had the city following most of the policies outlined in the new ordinance.

The Census Bureau estimates that 19 percent of Evanston residents are foreign born, compared to 20.9 percent of Chicago residents. But Hispanics are only 9 percent of the Evanston population, compared to 28.9 percent in Chicago.

The number of illegal immigrants in the U.S. is estimated at more than 11 million, about 3.7 percent of the total population. And just over half of the illegal immigrants are from Mexico.

Illinois is one of the six states with the most unauthorized immigrants, but the number of such immigrants has decline in Illinois in recent years.

Related stories

Mayor reaffirms ‘sanctuary city’ policy (11/15/16)

Aldermen split on immigration tactics (2/19/08)

Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

Join the Conversation


  1. Welcoming illegal aliens

    This is a case of the mayor and council planning on calling themselves stupid. Just because Chicago's mayor does something stupid doesn't mean Evanston should become a lemming. It also forces city officials to illegal acts and may cost the the city to face the loss of millions of dollars in federal funds. The mayor is trying to upgrade an unenforcible resolution into a city law. This could be a huge problem that could result into a nightmare for the entire city.


    1. Lawyer’s Full Employment Act
      Lawyers must be salivating over this.
      Evanston could be paying lawyer bills for years. Then add penalties. And largest of all the cut off of funds. The Council may pass laws or ordinances but it is unlikely they will go to jail–and they know it–as long as the decisions don’t cost them votes.
      And who pays ? Taxpayers !

    2. The ordinance

      … contains provisions designed to avoid having the city violate any existing statutes.

      And as with other situations — like federal court rulings limiting the city's power to regulate firearms — I think it's reasonable to assume that — if federal laws changed to compel muncipalities to participate in a dragnet roundup of illegal immigrants — there's a strong likelihood that Evanston would change its ordinance to comply, rather than forfeit federal funds or face other sanctions.

      No guarantees, of course.

      — Bill


  2. Not likely to be her legacy

    It's not likely to be a legacy of hers.  What's so wrong about the one we have?

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