Welcoming Cities Ordinance Draws Strong Opinions Pro And Con | WGLT

Welcoming Cities Ordinance Draws Strong Opinions Pro And Con

May 3, 2017

ISU Professor Maura Toro Morn holds a sign during the rally for families aimed at pressuring the Bloomington and Normal councils to pass a Welcoming Cities ordinance.
Credit Charlie Schlenker / WGLT

The Mayor of Normal is not enthusiastic about a formal welcoming cities ordinance. Area groups marched on Bloomington City Hall this week asking for an ordinance to limit local government cooperation with federal immigration and customs enforcement, or ICE.

Mayor Chris Koos of Normal said he supports keeping immigrant families together, but not through that method.

"You know, the council took a look at the ordinance and had the same concerns that the legal department and I had with the ordinance. I think some action could come but, I don't see it coming as an ordinance," said Koos.

Koos said the ordinance deals with some areas in which the town does not have standing.

"Things that were beyond the scope our ability to legislate and in areas that we don't have authority. I understand the issue and I'm supportive of the effort to keep families together," said Koos.

The issue promises to remain prominent, even within the Mayor's family. Chris Koos' brother, Greg Koos, a local historian, rallied for the ordinance in Bloomington. Greg Koos called the Welcoming Cities Ordinance "a gentle and legal step towards securing freedom for our families and neighbors."

"Fact: we are all immigrants. Fact: the land this community was built on, was taken from the Kickapoo people. Fact: all whites in this community were immigrants. Fact: most blacks in this community had ancestors who were slaves. They didn’t ask to come to America. Fact: forty percent or more people of this community 100 years ago were either born in Germany and Ireland, or had parents who were born in Germany or Ireland. Fact: the German people here worked hard to keep their German language. They started churches, newspapers, businesses and a school which used the German language. Fact: people of European descent often say, my family came here legally. Yes, but they were needed for cheap labor. Fact: immigrants are welcome when people with money want cheap labor. Germans and Irish were cheap labor. So were later immigrants like Chinese, Japanese, Scandinavians, Hungarians, Italians, and Greeks. Fact: Latinos became the cheap labor for America when the people with money stopped the poor Europeans from coming here. Fact: Latinos without documents are being treated much like slaves. Their presence is illegal, like a free black was illegal before the American Civil War. Fact: to treat an illegal like a slave is to steal his and her labor, tear apart their families and, terrorize them with random arrest. Fact: One hundred and seventy years ago people in this state worked to stop slavery by breaking the law. They were aided by the fact that many local governments ignored the laws dealing with slaves who escaped," said Greg Koos.

During the rally in Bloomington Dontae Latson also used the words of Martin Luther King in framing the issue of an ordinance as an absolute and not a relative good.

"The hottest place in hell is reserved for those who remain neutral in times of great moral conflict," said Latson.

But, opposition to the ordinance by some municipal government candidates in the April election centered on a refusal to break the law by withholding cooperation from federal authorities.

And apart from the moral and legal grounds of the argument, Mayor Chris Koos views larger scale deportations as bad policy. Mayor Koos said he thinks broader deportation efforts for undocumented immigrants will reduce available labor and hurt the economy.