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McLean County to consider ban on taxpayer funds for migrants

A man in a suit, with a yellow tie speaks into a microphone at the McLean County board room dais.
Michele Steinbacher
McLean County Board member Chuck Erickson at a meeting.

A McLean County Board member has proposed a resolution that would ban the county from providing any services to migrants should they be sent here from another municipality or state.

An anti-discrimination advocacy group in Bloomington-Normal calls the resolution “offensive.”

Republican Chuck Erickson of Bloomington, who drafted the proposal, said the county can’t be sure that all of the people who may be delivered to McLean County are seeking political asylum and added they could pose a safety threat.

“I am sure that some of these people are good people, but I’m not certain that all of them are good people and we just don’t know that,” Erickson said, and likened it to letting a stranger into your home.

Erickson represents eastern Bloomington-Normal in District 10.

The 20-member county board is expected to consider the measure during its monthly meeting on Thursday at 5:30 p.m. at the McLean County Government Center.

Erickson, who is running in a Republican primary for an Illinois House seat in March, said the county is not financially equipped to provide services for migrants and said he’s opposed to the idea on principle.

“American (taxpayer) dollars should be used for American citizens,” Erickson said, blaming the federal government for failing to stop the flow of migrants at the southern border.

Several municipalities in northern Illinois and the Chicago suburbs have approved or are considering similar measures.

The city of Chicago had placed restrictions on when migrant buses can arrive, sending some buses into suburban communities.

Grundy County, which is about an hour northeast of Bloomington-Normal, declared itself a “non-sanctuary county” last month and it posted signs on Interstate 55 warning drivers of migrant buses not to stop in their communities. Those signs were later removed.

Erickson, who chairs the county board’s justice committee, said he has not talked with McLean County Sheriff Matt Lane about his resolution, but said he is aware that law enforcement throughout the county is working on a plan to deal with migrants should they be brought here.

“My view of the plan is, listen, as soon as you can get them on a bus and get them to Chicago,” Erickson said, referring to Chicago’s status as a sanctuary city.

When asked if the resolution would exclude a migrant from seeking services at the McLean County Health Department or county-funded mental health urgent care center, Erickson called that an “extreme example” and said “at some point you’ve got to move them along.”

County Board member Corey Beirne, a Democrat in District 10, posted a call to action on social media to fight what he called "the single most disgusting, racist, ignorant, discriminatory piece of (expletive) I've seen brought before this board."

Beirne said the proposal uses "racist tropes and hysterical fearmongering to deny taxpayer funding" to migrants.

Beirne called Erickson the county board's "resident culture warrior and champion of systemic racism."

Not In Our Town reacts

The group Not In Our Town Bloomington-Normal issued a statement late Monday that it’s unhealthy and in violation of American tradition and federal law to declare the county off-limits to immigrants.

“Immigration is now politicized. We can individually express our thoughts on immigration law to our elected representatives. At the same time, the stranger at our door deserves more than harshness, instead, we should see the common humanity we all share and ensure that all amongst us are properly cared for, whether citizen or immigrant,” Not In Our Town co-chair Mike Matejka said.

Matejka said the community needs to provide food, shelter and a caring heart to help those who may be here in an emergency situation, rather than “restrict or label those that come our way.”

Matejka said he agreed with Erickson's contention that the flow of migrants from the southern border into the U.S. is a problem, but added that it needs bipartisan attention from lawmakers. He also suggested Republicans call on Texas Gov. Greg Abbott, a Republican, to stop busing the migrants to northern Democratic-led cities including Chicago.

"If they are upset that people are being used in this way, then please speak up about that," Matejka said.

Chicago has requested help from other communities in Illinois to provide housing and other services for migrants who have been arriving in busloads for months.

Normal Mayor Chris Koos has said previously the town was exploring what it would do if a bus of migrants arrived but added the town would need to “be realistic” about what it would be able to do, citing the community’s housing shortage.

Erickson’s proposal said the county “will not accept or provide taxpayer funded services to migrants sent to McLean County by any other state or municipality.”

Erickson said he doesn’t know if the measure has a chance to pass. The County Board has 10 Republicans and 10 Democrats, but he said the resolution can send a message even if it fails.

Eric Stock is the News Director at WGLT. You can contact Eric at ejstoc1@ilstu.edu.
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