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Renner Cancels Vote On Immigration Ordinance

Man raising sign over his head next to woman clutching sign to her chest.
Colleen Reynolds
Mayor Tari Renner, middle, at a March 2018 rally in support of the Welcoming City ordinance.

Facing a lack of council support and opposition from local Welcoming City activists, Mayor Tari Renner canceled Monday's planned vote on Bloomington’s immigration ordinance.

It was the second time this year that Renner's plan to bring the ordinance to a vote has failed. A majority of aldermen banded together in February to cancel a planned discussion on a previous version of it. Renner called Monday's special session to vote on a new version, but it was quickly met with opposition from the Keep Families Together coalition.

Maura Toro-Morn is a member of the coalition and a representative for the Committee Assisting Undocumented Student Achievement at Illinois State University. She said the ordinance would have been "disastrous for our immigrant families."

"This is actually an ordinance to give the keys to the city to ICE and say, 'Come into our community and do what you have to do,'" Toro-Morn said.

Future meetings on this topic are not anticipated, the city said in a statement.

"I remain committed to recognizing the importance of our immigrant population," Renner said in a statement Monday. "However it is clear there is not support on the council for the ordinance that was to be considered this evening.”

Instead of an ordinance, Renner said he’s recommending that Police Chief Clay Wheeler “develop and widely disseminate” detailed policies and procedures regarding BPD interactions with federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).

“These policies and procedures should speak directly to the concerns of individuals who may fear reporting crimes,” Renner said.

Renner had been the ordinance’s chief cheerleader at City Hall. He issued a proclamation Monday calling “foreign-born Bloomington residents … a vital part of our community.”

“I also call upon our faith communities and social justice organizations to educate our citizens about these (BPD) policies and procedures, to serve as advocates for individuals when they report crimes, and to develop scenarios for supporting vulnerable members of our community,” Renner said. “Through these activities, we engage fully with one another to build a community that is safe and without prejudice.”

The Keep Families Together coalition said it plans to rally at 5:30 p.m. Monday outside City Hall.

"It is not a question of that they know what to do. They clearly know that," said Don Carlson, executive director of Illinois People's Action, a coalition member. "Now the question is what they chose to do, and what they have chosen to do is nothing. Which is not an acceptable response."

The Keep Families Together coalition issued a statement Friday opposing Bloomington’s three-page ordinance, days after Renner scheduled the special session. The coalition said the ordinance was drafted without its input.

“It was a very hard decision to come out against an ordinance after all this time advocating for one,” said Charlotte Alvarez, executive director and staff attorney at the Immigration Project, a coalition member. “But the amount of time we’ve been talking about this really shows a lack of commitment on behalf of the City of Bloomington to come forward with a proposal and resolve this debate amongst our community members.”

The coalition said Bloomington’s proposed ordinance “does not take any meaningful action to limit collaboration” between BPD and ICE, “which is the very purpose of welcoming community ordinances.” It said Normal’s version—which passed with coalition support two months ago—did a better job controlling police-ICE interactions.

“We really believe this ordinance, this version, does more harm than good, because it assumes the issue is resolved. But it’s not resolved,” Alvarez said on GLT’s Sound Ideas.

GLT's full story.

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Ryan Denham is the content director for WGLT and WCBU.