"We're fasting today for freedom, for mercy, for justice," declared the Rev. Jim Warren of First Christian Church as the sunlight cast a golden glow on him and others gathered outside Bloomington City Hall on Sunday.
Warren joined about 60 others at a candlelight vigil to kick off Fast for Families, an effort to show solidarity and appreciation for the sacrifice immigrant families have made to pursue freedom and the American dream.
Bloomington Mayor Tari Renner was among those there carrying signs. He said he has been lobbying aldermen behind the scenes and he believes some sort of ordinance will eventually be negotiated.
“It will be an ordinance that makes it quite clear that Bloomington is open to people, that embraces diversity and that we are a nation and community of immigrants and that we have to communicate with ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement) but that we don’t do ICE’s bidding.”
Some council members were hesitant to move forward without first seeing what the Normal Town Council does with the issue.
“I don’t think there’s any reason Bloomington can’t lead when it comes to social justice, decency and human equality,” Renner said.
It has been a year since the idea of a Welcoming City ordinance was first proposed to the city council. It would prevent local police from cooperating with federal immigration agents.
Bloomington aldermen rejected an initial draft of the ordinance, saying it went too far in limiting local police cooperation with immigration and customs agents to only cases of felony sex or labor law offenses. They also said the state’s new Trust Act, signed by Gov. Bruce Rauner, also provided enough limits on police and ICE cooperation.
However, a coalition called Keep Families Together re-wrote a Welcoming City ordinance to fill in the gaps by the Trust Act. Keep Families Together is concerned about the level of cooperation local police would be forced to give ICE agents who come to Bloomington-Normal to raid a business.
Charlotte Alvarez from The Immigration Project said enforcement actions under the Trump administration have increased by 41 percent from 2016 to 2017. She said as of December 2017, more than 600,000 immigrants have been forced into deportation and removal proceedings.
“ICE is not waiting to see what Bloomington will do and if we don’t have a clear and common-sense policy. ICE will come here and we don’t know what will happen to our community members,” Alvarez said through a megaphone.
“We will sacrifice until we get a resolution,” she added, referring to the fast that will end at 6 p.m. Monday when the coalition will descend on Bloomington City Hall.
'Not Going To Stop'
Michelle Hunt, a veteran and an Illinois State University student, said her mother is an immigrant but didn’t face discrimination because she is white.
“I’m here and I’m fasting because silence is complicity and I refuse to be complicit in the othering of immigrants who along with natives and first nations people have always been the foundation of our country," said Hunt, a member of the Democratic Socialists of America.
Sonny Garcia of Illinois People’s Action said he knows council members are tired of seeing them marching on city hall but he said the issue won’t go away.
“We are not going to stop. We are going to keep fighting the Trump deportation machine," Garcia said.
The vigil wound up with the passing of a bread basket for those fasting to enjoy their last piece of sustenance for 24 hours.
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