Despite Council's Opposition, Activists to Continue Fight to Make Bloomington a ‘Welcoming City’

 Members of the Keep Families Together campaign rallied outside Bloomington City Hall Monday evening, when council members were set to consider the proposed "welcoming city" ordinance. Bloomington Mayor Tari Renner canceled the meeting Monday morning, citing insufficient council and community support for the proposal. (Photo: Breanna Grow) 

Members of the Keep Families Together campaign rallied outside Bloomington City Hall Monday evening, when council members were set to consider the proposed "welcoming city" ordinance. Bloomington Mayor Tari Renner canceled the meeting Monday morning, citing insufficient council and community support for the proposal. (Photo: Breanna Grow) 

Members of the 'Keep Families Together' campaign gathered outside Bloomington City Hall Monday evening had a message for the City council: “La lucha continúa – The fight continues.”

Council members were scheduled to consider the proposed “welcoming city” ordinance at 5:30 p.m., but Bloomington Mayor Tari Renner canceled the meeting that morning, citing insufficient council and community support for the ordinance.

Campaign leaders told the crowd of 40 or so supporters they would work even harder to ensure council members pass an ordinance limiting communication between the Bloomington Police Department (BPD) and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).

YMCA McLean County Mission Impact Director and campaign organizer Jenn Carrillo said while she was disappointed that after 16 months of discussion council members have yet to vote on the issue, she also felt “relieved” the City’s proposal would not be adopted.

“We didn’t feel like it was strong enough in actually affording any protections to immigrants, and we think that there’s a danger in proclaiming ourselves a welcoming city without actually limiting any of the cooperation or communication between ICE and police,” said Carrillo.

Renner said he made the decision to cancel the special session after two aldermen came out against the proposal over the weekend, pushing the tally of council members opposed from five to seven -- a far cry from the “close vote” Renner envisioned Friday.

Even among those opposed, there was no consensus as to how to move forward on the ordinance: “Some didn’t think it went far enough, some thought it went too far, some thought we should’ve done it long ago, some thought we should have another committee of the whole meeting,” he said.

In lieu of adopting the proposed ordinance, Renner recommended Bloomington Chief of Police Clay Wheeler develop a written policy detailing BPD procedures on interactions with ICE to address the concerns of undocumented immigrants hesitant to report crimes to the police for fear of deportation.

Renner also issued a proclamation “calling upon the people of Bloomington to join together to build a stronger, unified community.”

With the current council fractured, Renner said a welcoming city ordinance would have no chance of gathering enough support to make it back on the council agenda until after a new council seating.

But that won’t stop immigration activists who see an ordinance as the only way to protect the community’s immigrants.

“An ordinance is part of our city code; it’s part of who we are as a city,” said Charlotte Alvarez, executive director and staff attorney of The Immigration Project in Bloomington. “It goes beyond any individual person, administration, mayor or police chief. That’s what we think we need here: a long-term, solid commitment to our immigrant community.”

Carrillo agreed a policy statement and proclamation isn’t enough.

“A clear, bright-line rule that tells people that they should not feel unsafe to come forward and report crime is absolutely still needed in the community, and only the council has the power to do that.”

Carrillo said the council hasn’t seen the last of the Keep Families Together campaign, but it’s back to the drawing board, for now, to “restrategize, rebuild and build more power.”

“They’ve [council members] seen us show up in numbers and it hasn’t been enough to move them – to me that just says that we need more numbers,” she said. “We need to be able to apply more pressure and let them know that this is an urgent issue, this is a real issue, and it isn’t going to go away by pretending it isn’t happening.”