Members of PASO during a demonstration in 2013. | PASO/Facebook
Monday, January 23, 2017 || By Michael Romain || @maywoodnews
If a local social justice organization has its way, Melrose Park would adopt a ‘Welcoming Village’ ordinance in order to protect immigrants living in the village.
Officials with PASO – West Suburban Action Project, a nonprofit that advocates for immigrants and other vulnerable populations throughout the West Cook County suburbs — including Melrose Park, Stone Park, Maywood and Bellwood — will be at a meeting of the Melrose Park Board of Trustees held at 6 p.m. tonight, Monday, Jan. 23, at 1 Broadway Ave.
According to a flyer that PASO posted to its Facebook page, the proposed ‘Welcoming Village’ ordinance would “bar city officials from contacting, collaborating with, or assisting Immigration Customs Enforcement (ICE) solely because of a person’s immigration status.”
The ordinance would also “draw a firm line between police and ICE, disentangling the criminal and immigration system.”
For instance, federal immigration authorities would not be allowed access to village databases, “facilities, and other resources for the purpose of implementing registries based on race, gender, sexual orientation, religion, immigration status, national or ethnic origin, or to conduct civil immigration enforcement.”
Already, Cook County is among a number of counties throughout the country that “decline federal requests to hold arrestees in jail due to their immigration status,” according to a recent report by the Washington Post.
“Because jails are typically run by counties, rather than cities, county policies can matter more to immigrants,” the report adds.
But since Melrose Park also has policing powers, and the power to detain individuals who break the law, the village is also in the position to either cooperate, or decline to cooperate, with federal immigration authorities.
The Washington Post provides an illustration of how this process might work with both Cook County and Melrose Park law enforcement officials:
According to law enforcement and elected officials contacted by the Post, “honoring ICE detainer requirements could scare people away — they don’t want undocumented people to be afraid to contact the police if they need help.”
Phil Torrey, a Harvard criminal and immigration law expert, added that, law enforcement relies “folks to not be afraid of the police to report crimes.”
An added concern, according to the Immigrant Legal Resource Center, is discrimination.
“We find this involvement of local jails really troubling — it really undermines the idea that the criminal legal system protects everyone when a police stop is a gateway to deportation,” Lena Graber, an attorney with the center, told the Post.
So far, Oak Park is one of the few local municipalities that seems poised to enact a welcoming ordinance similar to the one being proposed by PASO. Currently, village officials are still working out the details of that proposal.
According to a recent Chicago Tribune report, Oak Park’s proposed ordinance “would further strengthen Oak Park’s human rights ordinance by ensuring the ‘general welfare of village residents and visitors alike,’ while stating ‘immigrant community members, whether documented or not, will be treated with respect and dignity by all village employees.”
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