Tag: Trustee Arturo Mota

Melrose Park Mayor Refuses to Let Trustees Answer Questions on Welcoming Proposal

ron_serpicoTuesday, 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

P A I D  A D V E R T I S E M E N T 

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Breaking: Melrose Park Mayor Says He Can’t Commit to Welcoming Village Ordinance

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Residents stand up in a show of support for a Welcoming Village ordinance in Melrose Park during a Feb. 27 regular board meeting. || Michael Romain/VFP

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Monday, February 27, 2017 || By Michael Romain || @maywoodnews || Updated: 11:11 p.m.

The atmosphere inside of a packed room at 1 N. Broadway during a regular Melrose Park board meeting felt like the pre-ceremonial rumblings of a wedding audience. At least 100 people filled council chambers tonight, most hoping to hear that the board would at least start the process of approving a Welcoming Village ordinance.

Thirty minutes later, after a 15-minute ode to immigrants and a litany of prior good deeds done on behalf of his village’s Hispanic community, Melrose Park Mayor Ronald Serpico left most in the crowd feeling like jilted lovers.

Members of 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 — have been vocal in their support of a proposal that would “draw a firm line between police and ICE, disentangling the criminal and immigration system,” according to a flyer the group has circulated.

The possibility that Melrose Park would pass some measure similar to what PASO is proposing seemed strong earlier this year. During a meeting in January, which Serpico did not attend due to a reported illness, members of the board seemed to get behind the measure.

Trustee Arturo Mota said at the time that Melrose Park “has been very supportive of being a welcoming community,” adding that the village has also gotten behind local initiatives and state laws that would ease the burden of living for immigrants.

A motion to “establish Melrose Park as a sanctuary village and authorize the offices of the mayor and village attorney to prepare all documents for the aforesaid” was tabled due to Serpico’s absence. Mota said the mayor wanted to “address everyone who is for or against” the ordinance before the vote was held.

But a Feb. 13 regular meeting where further discussion on the proposal was to take place was canceled, with a Serpico spokesman explaining that the mayor had been out of town and recuperating from “very serious back surgery.”

On Monday night, Serpico and the trustees heard at least 15 minutes of public comments from numerous community leaders expressing their support for the measure and arguing that it would alleviate some of the fear that’s been palpable in many immigrant communities since President Donald Trump’s election.

“Immigrants have always been part of the fabric of the United States of America. I’ve seen too many families torn apart due to deportation,” said Sister Noemia Silva, of the Missionary Sisters of Saint Charles Borromeo-Scalabrinians.

“Pope Francis asks each of us to help those who, for various reasons, have been forced out of their homeland and immigrate to a new land,” she said. “We cannot wait. It’s urgent for Melrose Park to become a welcoming village for immigrants.”

Silva and others referenced raids conducted by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement earlier this month that resulted in the of 680 people across the country, according to ICE. Seventy-five percent of them, the agency claimed, were “criminal aliens.” One of those arrests took place in Melrose Park.

Recently, President Trump has called for local law enforcement officials to cooperate with the federal government during his administration’s efforts to ramp up on immigration enforcement.

“People are afraid to take their children to school, to go to restaurants and to generally live their everyday lives,” said Mony Ruiz-Velasco, the executive director of PASO who is also an immigration rights attorney.

“The federal government is threatening to deport more than two or three million people this year and they are not going to be able to do that without deputizing local officials,” Ruiz-Velasco said.

“Two weeks ago, new policies were issued by the president making all immigrants targets for deportation,” she said. “This does not apply only to undocumented immigrants. They are threatening to prosecute people who came to the United States with their children, to charge them with smuggling.”

Martha Ortiz, a Melrose Park business owner, said that Trump’s immigration policies are hurting local businesses.

“Many of my employees are terrified that something can happen to their friends or their family and businesses like mine are beginning to see less sales, as people are fearful of being out and about,” she said. “They live with the fear that something can happen to them or their family. They’re also trying to save money in the case of an emergency or a tragic deportation.”

Samuel Valtierrez, a 25-year resident of Melrose Park who is running for a seat on the Proviso Township High Schools District 209 school board in the April 4 election, compared the trials of Latino immigrants today to those of immigrants in the past.

“If today was 1910 and [this were happening to the Italian community], I would be here saying the same thing,” Valtierrez said. “If it was 1870, I would be here to defend the Irish community, because they went through the same thing. But it’s 2017. And [it’s happening] to the Latino community.”

Serpico touted his record of taking stances on numerous immigration-related issues, noting that he’s spoken “all over the world” on behalf of immigration. The mayor said that he’s met on numerous occasions with Silva and also met recently with PASO officials about the proposed Welcoming Village ordinance.

The mayor added that the village has already taken steps to mitigate the widespread fear of deportation among area immigrants and their families by instituting numerous measures, such as stopping a click-it-or-ticket program because of the fear it elicited among some immigrant motorists. He also said that Melrose Park police officers don’t inquire about immigration status or cooperate with ICE.

“Who wants to see families be broken up? That’s not Christian,” Serpico said. “That’s not the right thing to do.”

But the mayor stopped short of committing to the creation of an ordinance that would be legally binding. The mayor briefly mentioned President Trump’s threats to yank some federal funding from local governments who refuse to cooperate with federal officials on immigration enforcement measures.

He also said that, besides, there’s not much a local government can do to stop federal authorities from coming into Melrose Park to conduct immigration-related actions. One village official said that the police learned about the one ICE arrest that occurred in town after reading it in the newspaper.

Ruiz-Velasco, however, pushed back, insisting that, although an ordinance would not stop deportations, it would at least provide “a layer of protection” against the federal government’s efforts and would help ease some residents’ fears.

Serpico said that he was concerned about Trump’s instability and unpredictable nature, adding that he didn’t want to pass an ordinance only to have the president implement an even more draconian policy that, given the village’s status, would perhaps open it up to potential financial repercussions.

The mayor, who didn’t explicitly say the ordinance was dead, said that he would be in communication with community stakeholders about the proposal. That explanation wasn’t enough for one Melrose Park resident, who insisted on Serpico providing a firmer declaration of his intent. No trustees on the board talked during the meeting.

“I’d like to be able to go home tonight and [tell my son some good news],” she said, adding that she was not a member of PASO.

“I can’t make that commitment,” Serpico said. “We’ll [keep] the lines of communication open.”

Valtierrez compared Serpico’s noncommittal speech to a boyfriend claiming that he loves his girlfriend without making a commitment to marriage, adding that an ordinance would be similar to a marriage or birth certificate.

“For me as a father, for my kids to feel secure, [and to know that] I am their father, my signature is on the birth certificate,” Valtierrez said. “That’s what makes me their father legally. That’s all we want. We want a legal document to feel protected.”

“I feel like someone whose been living with a woman for 20 years and has two kids, a house, two cars and I come home every day, and after 20 years she says, ‘Let’s get married,'” Serpico responded, in keeping with the marriage metaphor. “Does that paper change anything after 20 years?”

“If gives you some security, that’s for sure,” someone yelled from the audience.

“But how many people live with people,” Serpico responded, “and as soon as they get married, they get divorced?” VFP

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Melrose Park Board Meeting, Where ‘Sanctuary Village’ Ordinance was Scheduled for Discussion, is Cancelled

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Melrose Park trustees during a board meeting held last month. | File

Monday, February 13, 2017 || By Michael Romain || @maywoodnews || UPDATED: 4:34 p.m. 

A regularly scheduled meeting of the Melrose Park Board of Trustees, which was to be held tonight, Monday, Feb. 13, has been canceled, according to a public notice released by Village Clerk Mary Ann Paolantonio.

At a meeting on Jan. 23, Melrose Park trustees heard numerous public comments from community members who expressed support of a proposed ‘Welcoming Village’ ordinance.

Members of 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 — were in the audience, along with District 209 school board member Claudia Medina and representatives from other organizations, during the meeting to express their support for the proposal.

Trustee Arturo Mota said that Melrose Park “has been very supportive of being a welcoming community,” adding that the village has also gotten behind local initiatives and state laws that would ease the burden of living for immigrants.

“When it came out that the state was going out for a vote to give undocumented immigrants an opportunity to get drivers licenses, we lobbied and made sure our state representative was out there voting for it because we knew how important that was,” he said.

The trustees tabled a motion to “establish Melrose Park as a sanctuary village and authorize the offices of the mayor and village attorney to prepare all documents for the aforesaid” due to Mayor Ronald Serpico’s absence.

Mota said that Serpico had been sick and that he wanted the board to hear as many arguments for and against the proposal before the measure was voted on.

In a phone call today, Mota referred questions about the meeting’s cancellation to Serpico’s office.

According to a spokesman for the mayor, Serpico is out of town and has been recuperating from “very serious back surgery.”

The spokesman said that, since the board did not have any time-sensitive items to vote on, such as budgetary issues, the rest of the trustees opted to cancel the meeting. VFP

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Melrose Park Board Supports ‘Sanctuary Village’ Ordinance

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Melrose Park trustees (below) and members of PASO (above) during a Jan. 23 meeting, where an ordinance designed to make the village a welcoming community was discussed. | Shanel Romain/VFP

dsc_0117Tuesday, January 24, 2017 || By Michael Romain || @maywoodnews

During a Jan. 23 regular meeting, members of the Melrose Park Board of Trustees expressed their support for a ‘Welcoming Village’ or ‘Sanctuary Village’ ordinance, a measure that also has the vocal support of numerous community advocates.

Members of 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 — were in the audience, along with District 209 school board member Claudia Medina and representatives from other organizations, during the meeting to express their support of the ordinance.

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.”

Sister Noemia Silva, of the Missionary Sisters of Saint Charles Borromeo-Scalabrinians, expressed support for the ordinance during public comment.

“For many of us, our parents or grandparents or great-grandparents were foreigners at one time in this great nation,” Silva said, before offering a person account of how she’s been affected by migration.

“I’ve had the opportunity to serve migrants from diverse backgrounds who have, at times, suffered hardships due to forced immigration,” she said. “I’ve seen too many families destroyed and torn apart due to deportation. My heart breaks to see men and women separated from their children.”

Silva said that she prays and hopes that Melrose Park “can become a just model in which other cities can learn from and imitate.”

“At a time when immigrant communities are under attack, this ordinance will give hope and support immigrants and their families to live, thrive and contribute to the community without fear of deportation,” she said. “Melrose Park can be a ray of light.”

Trustee Arturo Mota said that Melrose Park “has been very supportive of being a welcoming community,” adding that the village has also gotten behind local initiatives and state laws that would ease the burden of living for immigrants.

“When it came out that the state was going out for a vote to give undocumented immigrants an opportunity to get drivers licenses, we lobbied and made sure our state representative was out there voting for it, because we knew how important that was,” he said.

A motion to “establish Melrose Park as a sanctuary village and authorize the offices of the mayor and village attorney to prepare all documents for the aforesaid” was tabled due to Mayor Ronald Serpico’s absence.

Mota said the mayor, who was not at the meeting because of illness, wanted to “address everyone who is for or against” the ordinance before the vote was held.

The board, Mota said, is expected to take a vote on the ordinance at its next regular meeting on Feb. 13. VFP

Shanel Romain contributed to this report. 

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