As the Bloomington City Council moved on from a twice-canceled vote on a controversial Welcoming City ordinance, local activists said Monday they’re looking for other ways—outside of policymaking—to protect local immigrants.
Bloomington Mayor Tari Renner canceled Monday’s special session on the immigration ordinance, citing a lack of support on the council. That came days after the Keep Families Together coalition, which lobbied for an immigration ordinance for more than a year, announced its opposition to the final version of it.
A few dozen Keep Families Together activists rallied Monday outside Bloomington City Hall, looking to regroup. An hour later as Bloomington aldermen met for their regular meeting, none mentioned the ordinance and moved onto other business.
“The central rule of organizing is that if you lose, it means you don’t have enough power to compel the justice you’re asking for,” said Jenn Carrillo with YWCA McLean County, a coalition member. “As organizers, we have to reflect on how much power did we build through the campaign, and the answer is not enough. And so it’s about going back to the drawing board and figuring out what other allies we can bring into this effort.”
Policy change is important, she said, but there are “many, many other actions we can take as community groups to be protecting our immigrant friends and neighbors.” That includes Know Your Rights training sessions, she said.
“It’s not going to ensure that people in our community who are victims of crime, and who may be undocumented, are calling the police. But it’s another way we can take action on this very real issue,” said Carrillo, also a candidate for Bloomington City Council in 2019.
Sonny Garcia, another coalition leader, said “hundreds and hundreds of people” have turned out for coalition events since lobbying began more than a year ago.
“The next step is to get those hundreds and hundreds of people trained and teach them how to organize and mobilize their friends and family,” Garcia said. “Because we need to build more power. And that’s what this whole campaign was about—building grassroots, community power, to change our government into something that reflects the true needs and desires of the people.”
The coalition successfully lobbied the Normal Town Council to pass its own Welcoming community ordinance in May. But coalition leaders say they were shut out of crafting Bloomington’s final ordinance, which they argue doesn’t do enough to control interactions between local police and federal immigration agents.
The lobbying effort was a “civics lesson,” said Maura Toro-Morn, an Illinois State University professor and representative for the Committee Assisting Undocumented Student Achievement, part of the coalition.
“We need more than a proclamation,” said Charlotte Alvarez, executive director and staff attorney at the Immigration Project, a coalition member. “And we are not done. We will not sit by and keep seeing that nothing gets done. We are still, still, still—after so long—urging real protection and a real Welcoming City ordinance.”
Renner talked about the Welcoming City ordinance Tuesday on GLT's Sound Ideas:
You can also listen to GLT's full interview with Renner:
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