Friday, August 25, 2017 || By Michael Romain || @maywoodnews
Feature photo: Proponents of a Melrose Park welcoming ordinance during a village board meeting in February.
Last month, the Melrose Park village council unanimously approved an ordinance called the Trust Code, which mirrors Senate Bill 31 — also called the Illinois Trust Act — that Gov. Bruce Rauner is expected to sign on Aug. 28.
The Trust Act protects immigrants from being detained by local law enforcement agencies based on pressure from the federal government.
“So basically, if U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) suspects that somebody who had been in local or state custody is undocumented, they’ll send a written request to that agency and say, “Hold onto this person for up to 48 hours. We want to do a little research and find out if this person is here illegally or not,’” explains WBEZ’s Morning Shift.
“What the Trust Act says is local and state law enforcement officials will not honor those requests,” WBEZ explains. “But they may comply if there is an actual criminal warrant that’s issued by a judge to hold someone.”
While the impending passage of the Trust Act has been heralded by immigration proponents from a range of ideological and organizational backgrounds, Melrose Park’s Trust Code has exacerbated tensions among local pro-immigrant groups.
Sergio Suarez, the CEO and president of the Melrose Park-based North America Institute for Mexican Advancement (NAIMA), lauded the new ordinance in a July 14 article published by Ultimas Noticias.
“We are very happy about the new ordinance and we hope that other local governments make law similar to this, because they are reasonable, necessary and correct,” Suarez said.
The article cited at least three other business-people who also praised the ordinance, including Jesse Macias, a Melrose Park businessman and District 89 school board member.
“This is a very positive thing,” Macias is quoted as saying. “This ordinance reaffirms the trust of the residents with the police and that makes the community much more united.”
According to Ultimas, state Rep. Emanuel “Chris” Welch (7th) congratulated Melrose Park Mayor Ron Serpico, along with city councilmen, “for their positive work for the people.”
Melrose Park’s passage of the Trust Code comes roughly four months after the village board struck down a proposed welcoming ordinance for which representatives with the Melrose Park-based PASO – West Suburban Action Project, among other community groups, were advocating.
PASO members, along with a coalition of other organizations, were also influential in crafting the Trust Act that Rauner is set to sign on Monday.
Mony Ruiz-Velasco, PASO’s executive director, praised the Trust Act as the strongest legislation of its kind in the country. Melrose Park, however, shouldn’t be trying to mirror the state, she said.
“We think Melrose Park can do better than the Trust Act,” she said. “It’s a great starting point at the state level, but it’s a different concept. Melrose can do much better.”
Ruiz-Velasco said that the Trust Act’s restrictions only apply to law enforcement.
“What we were advocating for in Melrose Park and have been able to help pass [in some variation] in other towns like Berwyn, Oak Park, River Forest, Summit and Forest Park — these ordinances are much stronger than the Trust Code,” she said.
Ruiz-Velasco added that, unlike the Trust Code, those welcoming ordinances apply to all city employees, including first responders, EMTs and firefighters — not just law enforcement officials.
“Those ordinances go further to make sure that all people are treated equally and receive the same services from the village,” she said. “They also stipulate that the village can’t collect information about a person’s immigration status, so there’s no need at all for a village or city to ask for anything related to immigration status.”
Serpico has explained that he didn’t support the passage of a welcoming ordinance because he thought it could potentially put the village in the bulls eye of the Trump administration, which has repeatedly threatened to withhold federal funds from sanctuary and welcoming municipalities. Supporters of the welcoming ordinances, however, have argued that those threats are overblown.
Ruiz-Velasco also criticized the way in which Melrose Park passed the Trust Code. She said that numerous organizations who had a hand in drafting the state legislation and who advocated for a welcoming ordinance in Melrose Park before the village killed the proposal were not consulted about the Trust Code. Ruize-Velasco added that she only learned of the new ordinance after its passage.
“The way the Trust Code passed was very dis-empowering to the community,” she said. “Many organizations — not just PASO, but also Westlake Hospital, Sarah’s Inn and some of the mental health providers — were pushing Melrose Park to pass a welcoming ordinance and the board shut it down in April. They passed this without engaging the community. This could’ve been handled in a better way.”
Other proponents of a proposed Melrose Park welcoming ordinance have lambasted NAIMA. In Facebook posts and during phone interviews, those proponents have described NAIMA as a pro-business, pro-Serpico outfit that has attempted to take credit for the heavy lifting done by other organizations, such as PASO, to get the Trust Act passed.
Ruiz-Velasco said that, as far as she knows, NAIMA was not at the negotiating table when the Trust Act was being hammered out, but that they were likely involved with the mayor’s office in the passage of the Trust Code.
When contacted by phone on Wednesday, a NAIMA representative said that Suarez was out of town. Attempts to contact Melrose Park village officials for comment were also unsuccessful.
Welch — who co-sponsored the bill and who has been in communication with Trust Code and welcoming ordinance supporters — credited both sides with getting the state legislation on the governor’s desk.
“The Trust Act would not be where it is today without a large, diverse coalition,” Welch said during an interview on Thursday. “The work that PASO and Asian Americans for Justice and the entire welcoming campaign has done should be applauded, but let’s understand something; the bill is on the governor’s desk.
“The governor is a Republican and the business community has his ear, so we very much need NAIMA and all those organizations who the governor listens to, to continue to speak up as well, because we all share the same goal and that’s for the Trust Act to become law. If the governor signs this bill, I’m going to stand up there and proudly give those organizations all the credit because it has taken them all to get to this point.”
Ruiz-Velasco said that she still hopes Melrose Park can pass a welcoming ordinance and that Serpico can “open up the process.” VFP
Correction: A previous version of this article incorrectly referred to NAIMA as NAIMI. VFP regrets the error.