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Renner May Revisit Welcoming City Ordinance After April Election

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

Mayor Tari Renner said Tuesday the Bloomington Police Department’s new policy on working with immigration officials is a good first step, but that he still wants a more permanent solution.

Last summer Renner unsuccessfully pushed the Bloomington City Council to pass a so-called Welcoming City ordinance to restrict how and when police interacted with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). Lacking the votes to pass the ordinance, Renner instead asked new Police Chief Clay Wheeler to develop a departmental policy governing ICE interactions.

Wheeler explained that new policy in an interview last week with GLT. Similar to a Welcoming ordinance passed in Normal, the new BPD policy is guided by state law and requires that officers direct ICE requests to Wheeler, or to a lieutenant if ICE needs an immediate response. 

Appearing Tuesday on GLT’s Sound Ideas, Renner praised Wheeler’s eight-month tenure.

“But the difficulty with a policy is that a policy can change from one police chief who’s instituted that to another. That’s why I supported a Welcoming City ordinance,” Renner said.

Renner said an ordinance would reflect the city’s diversity and signal to immigrants that they are “part of our community” and can safely engage with the police without fearing deportation. 

Renner and aldermen failed to reach an agreement on the ordinance last year for myriad reasons. Some critics questioned whether an ordinance would be too restrictive or was even necessary, given Bloomington Police’s claim that its interactions with ICE were so infrequent. Advocates, banding together as the Keep Families Together Coalition, pointed to BPD emails showing a close working relationship between police and ICE.

“The bottom line is, we have the policy. It is in place. And we do an election coming very shortly,” Renner said. 

Renner said he may raise the ordinance issue again later this year after that April 2 election. Three aldermen (David Sage, Diana Hauman, and Amelia Buragas) are not seeking re-election, meaning at least three new faces will be on the council. A fourth alderman, Ward 6’s Karen Schmidt, faces a re-election challenge from a leading Welcoming City ordinance supporter, community organizer Jenn Carrillo.

“That (election) will dramatically change the culture. It might very well change the balance of power on lots of issues, and possibly the Welcoming City ordinance. We’ll see. We’ll see on April 2,” Renner said.

GLT's full interview with Mayor Renner.

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Ryan Denham is the digital content director for WGLT.