Tuesday, March 14, 2017 || By Michael Romain || @maywoodnews
Supporters of a proposed welcoming ordinance that would “draw a firm line between police and [U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement], disentangling the criminal and immigration system,” according to a flyer circulated by the nonprofit PASO — West Suburban Action Project, were back in force at a March 13 regular meeting of the Melrose Park Board of Trustees.
A crowd of at least 100 people left a Feb. 27 board meeting disappointed after Mayor Ronald Serpico refused to commit to the proposal. The mayor, however, said that he’ll “keep the lines of communication open.”
At Monday’s meeting, Serpico wasn’t quite as coy as some residents who spoke insisted that the board at least put the proposal, which wasn’t an item listed on that night’s agenda, to a vote. They also sought the input of individual trustees on the issue.
The last time a trustee spoke on the proposal was at a Jan. 23 regular meeting, where Trustee Arturo Mota said that Melrose Park “has been very supportive of being a welcoming community.” Mota didn’t directly comment on PASO’s proposed ordinance. Serpico was absent.
“Why can’t you come to a vote? Why can’t a decision be made? This has been brought up for a little over a month,” said Melrose Park resident Sandy Aguirre at the March 13 meeting. “Can I get an answer to my first question from each board member? Why can’t you say yes or no?”
“First of all, I don’t think that’s a proper question,” said Serpico. “Second of all, I set the agenda, so if you want to blame someone for it not being on the agenda, you can blame me.”
“This is not a blame game,” Aguirre responded. “I’m asking for a response from each of the board members.”
“No, I’m going to respond,” said Serpico. “So, if you don’t want my response …”
Throughout the meeting, Serpico said that he believes passing PASO’s ordinance would be promoting a “false sense of hope,” because the village has no real authority to stop the federal government from enforcing immigration-related measures in Melrose Park.
He also repeated arguments, made last month, that the village has already taken measures— such as a decision to stop a click-it-or-ticket campaign — designed to help assuage some residents’ fears of deportation.
PASO officials, however, have noted that President Donald Trump’s aggressive immigration directives are highly dependent on deputizing local law enforcement agencies to help carry out the whims of the federal government.
In this sense, a legally binding ordinance would be much more than symbolic, they’ve argued. It would be an additional mechanism safeguarding Melrose Park residents against Trump’s mass deportation plans by ensuring them that the federal government won’t deploy Melrose Park’s resources to carry out the president’s whims.
Serpico, however, said he doesn’t believe passing an ordinance would provide that much of additional protection.
“So we’re going to keep out the federal government if they decide to come in? There’s a false sense of expectations,” the mayor said. “I don’t understand [the argument that the ordinance would provide an additional layer of security].”
“Because you’re not an immigrant! You’re not in our shoes!” some people hollered from the audience.
According to one resident of Melrose Park, who said that she serves on a parental advisory committee for Washington Dual Language Academy in Maywood, the number of parents who have been involved in the committee’s activities has significantly diminished recently. She said that some children are afraid “when they see a police car driving by their school.”
Another person who spoke during public comments — a mental health professional who works in Melrose Park — said that he’s seeing more cases of depression, anxiety and bullying.
“It’s not about … the board,” said Melrose Park resident Bobby Hernandez. “It’s about the families. It’s about Melrose Parkers.”
Serpico said that he would place the proposed ordinance on the agenda for the next regular board meeting scheduled for March 27, 6 p.m., at 1 N. Broadway in Melrose Park. He didn’t say, however, whether or not the board would put the proposal to a vote — or whether any trustees would be allowed to comment on it. VFP