Bloomington to Consider "Welcoming City" Ordinance

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Bloomington residents encouraged to attend 

Council's special session

The Bloomington City Council has scheduled a special session to discuss the Welcoming City Ordinance on Monday, December 18th at 5:00 pm at the Bloomington Center for the Performing Arts. On November 28th, dozens of Bloomington residents gathered at the City Council meeting to demonstrate support for the ordinance. The special session has been scheduled in order to further address the issue. It will be held at the BCPA due to the expected crowd size. A presentation and discussion on both the Welcoming City Ordinance and The Downtown Task Force Final Report will be presented.

What is the Welcome City ordinance?

The key components of Ordinance No. 2017 include:

  • The city will not discriminate against any person based on the person’s actual or                    perceived citizenship or immigration status.
  • The Bloomington Police Department will respond to requests from immigrant communities to defend them against all crimes, including hate crimes, and will connect immigrants to social services as needed.

  • The city will cooperate with community advocates and other experts to defend the human rights of immigrants.

  • The city will not spend municipal resources, including time, on immigration enforcement operations or the investigation of immigration status or citizenship, unless required to do so by court order or federal law.

What the Welcoming City Ordinance is not:

  • The ordinance would not protect city residents from deportation. US Immigrations and Customs Enforcement (ICE) could still conduct investigations and make arrests. However, the ordinance prevents city resources from being used to aid in such investigations.

  • The ordinance also does not violate any federal immigration laws because police officers would still be required comply with any federal laws or enforce warrants that are signed by a judge.

  • The ordinance does not provide immigrants with lawful immigration status, nor does it designate them as US citizens. Only the federal government can approve citizenship or change one’s immigration status.

What a Welcome City Ordinance Means for The City

The Welcoming City Ordinance is similar to the Illinois TRUST Act, a bill with which the Bloomington Police Department is already in compliance. The Act prohibits local law enforcement from complying with the ICE detainer policy as well as warrants that are not issued by a judge. This act also prohibits police officers from stopping, searching, arresting, or detaining a person based solely on immigration status.

The main difference between the Illinois TRUST Act and the Welcoming City Ordinance is the TRUST Act’s inability to protect victims of crimes. Unlike the TRUST Act, the Welcoming City Ordinance would require city officials to consider all immigration benefits, such as U-Visas, requested by crime victims. U-visas allow victims of certain crimes to assist law enforcement in the investigation or prosecution of a crime, including testifying in court, without fear of deportation.

Proponents of the ordinance argue that undocumented residents may be unwilling to report crimes or testify against perpetrators of crimes because they may fear that their immigration status will result in deportation. This fear could cause crimes to go unreported, criminals to go unpunished, and residents of certain immigration statuses to lose access to protection from victimization.

Illinois People’s Action stands in strong favor of the ordinance. They believe the ordinance will keep families together, strengthen the relationship between the police and the immigrant community and limit federal overreach. Other supporters include representatives for District 87 as well as public organizations such as Not in Our Town and YWCA.

 Welcoming City initiative leader Sonny Garcia addresses a crowd in support of the city ordinance on November 28. (Photo Credit: Bloomington YWCA)

Welcoming City initiative leader Sonny Garcia addresses a crowd in support of the city ordinance on November 28. (Photo Credit: Bloomington YWCA)

Welcoming City initiative leader Sonny Garcia encouraged the city and its residents to support the ordinance. According to Garcia, residents must “hold true to their values and recognize that immigrants contribute to our economy. It’s important to remember that they are our friends and neighbors.”

However, other groups including certain city staff members, believe the ordinance is redundant and unnecessary, given other protective measures that are already in place for immigrant residents. Opponents cited several other concerns as well, including the prohibition of using city resources to assist with immigration issues (except in cases where required by law); that the police may be less likely to make arrests out of fear of negative consequences; and that additional training would be required for police officers.

Another main concern involves President Trump’s statements regarding the removal of federal grants from welcoming cities. Some Bloomington City staff members fear that the $30,000 grant that the police department receives could be pulled if the ordinance is implemented.

Ordinance proponents, including Garcia, say the removal of federal funds should not be a large concern because other cities have successfully sued the Trump Administration to prevent the stripping of their funds. The cost of resources needed to accomplish this is unknown, however.

Bloomington residents are encouraged to attend the City Council’s special session on Monday to learn more about the ordinance and express their views or concerns.

Photo credit: Bloomington YWCA.