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GLT stories about immigrants living in Bloomington-Normal.

Bloomington Council Unwilling To Advance Welcoming City Ordinance

Nearly 300 people—mostly supporters—turned out to a Bloomington City Council meeting Monday dealing with a proposed Welcoming City ordinance.

Maura Toro-Morn said it's important the city signal opposition to harsh policies and the actions of Immigration and Customs Enforcement, or ICE.

Credit Baylee Steelman / WGLT
Maura Toro-Morn, a professor at Illinois State University, speaks in support of the Welcoming City ordinance.

"If people are afraid of police, if they fear they may become separated from their families or harshly interrogated based on their immigration status, they will not report crimes or come forward as witnesses," said Toro-Morn.

The measure would limit police cooperation with federal immigration authorities. Resident Louis Goseland told the council failing to pass an ordinance could increase crime.

"We as a community do not want deportations to be happening with our resources. We want everyone to feel that they can work with the police and access any services they need in a time of crisis without fear that they will then be transferred to ICE," said Goseland.

Others cited statistics purporting to show crime has gone down significantly in cities that have passed a Welcoming City measure.

Opponents of the proposal also spoke passionately, including Joe Walden.

"The laws of this land number one are that illegal aliens are to be deported. Two, if you pass this you will handcuff the police even further by not allowing them to do their job and promote justice," said Walden.

City council members at a dais in the Center for the Performing Arts.
Credit Baylee Steelman / WGLT
Monday's meeting was held at the Bloomington Center for the Performing Arts to accommodate the larger crowd.

David Eads said approving the measure could cost Bloomington $30,000 in federal funding.

"Illegal. It's criminal, whether we like it or not. Tying our hands on selected laws is against the law," said Eads.

Supporters of the measure argued they doubt that would happen, but said even if true, it's a small bite and worth it to send a message of security to immigrants.

Bloomington Police Chief Brendan Heffner said the department acts with federal immigration authorities on a number of issues, and he does not want to jeopardize cooperation on things like drug investigations by passing such an ordinance.

Aldermen are showing no signs of wanting to vote though the proposal surfaced months ago. No alderman was willing to ask staff to prepare a draft for action at a future council meeting.

Alderman Kim Bray wanted more discussion. Alderman Karen Schmidt said she is not willing to consider passage of such a resolution unless the Town of Normal is as well. Alderman Scott Black suggested tinkering with a section of a sample ordinance to address police concerns about loss of federal cooperation on drug investigations and other non-immigration issues.

Alderman David Sage said he thinks there is no problem since Bloomington Police have not been responsible for any deportations. Alderman Jamie Mathy said there is a problem, at least in public perception, if residents are unwilling to go to police to report crimes because of their immigration status. Mathy stopped short of endorsing any particular measure.

Mayor Tari Renner joined GLT's Sound Ideas on Tuesday to discuss the Welcoming City measure:

Listen to public testimony to Bloomington aldermen below. Voices include (in no particular order) Robert Werkman, Jill Blair, Mike Matejka, Louis Goseland, Cinnamon Porter, Joe Walden, Don Carlson, David Eades, Maura Toro-Morn, Emily Vigneri, and Mary Meier:

Public comments during the Welcoming City meeting.

Editor's note: This story has been edited to include more specific reaction by aldermen.

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WGLT Senior Reporter Charlie Schlenker has spent more than three award-winning decades in radio. He lives in Normal with his family.