News Local/State

Sanctuary City Measure Passes Urbana Council On 5-1 Vote

U of I Law Professor Francis Boyle addresses the Urbana City Council Monday night.

University of Illinois Law Professor Francis Boyle addresses the Urbana City Council Monday night. Jeff Bossert/Illinois Public Media

Urbana’s city council has re-affirmed its status as a sanctuary city for undocumented immigrants, approving a resolution that saw some changes after an initial discussion last week. Monday night’s 5-to-1 vote came after a number of public comments, mostly in favor of the measure from some of the roughly 50 people in the city council chambers.

The revised policy specifies that no city employee can request information of someone’s immigration status, unless required by court order.

Mike Doyle with the C-U Immigration Forum says there’s nothing in this ordinance as written that could lead to a loss of federal funds.

He contends President-Elect Donald Trump’s comments on mass deportation are simply meant to intimidate welcoming cities like Urbana.

"His threats are intendend to intimidate communities such as ours that welcome and embrace immigrants," he said. "And I think it would be a real mistake to begin backing away from taking a strong stand because of such threats. In fact, the best way to defeat any effort to cut off federal funds for cities that share our values is to speak out strongly now and send back a message to this administration – that there is resistance in the heartland to his immigration policies," he said.

Doyle is also executive director of the University YMCA, which he says has a rich history of welcoming immigrants to the area.

Urbana Alderman Bill Brown added legal language to the resolution, specifying that no federal law requires local police to routinely ask an individual’s immigration status, and that local policies must not target communities based on perceived immigration status.

A large crowd packed the Urbana City Council Chambers Monday night.

Photo Credit: Jeff Bossert/Illinois Public Media

Brown says after Trump’s campaign talk of mass deportations of those who are undocumented, it was important to update Urbana’s 30-year old sanctuary resolution.

“I think it’s important to remind people that there is this due process that people deserve, you can’t just deport a bunch of people without giving them a chance to talk to a judge – and you definitely have to give them equal protection under the law," he said. "And you can’t base decisions on religious preferences and things like that.”

University of Illinois law professor Francis Boyle, who designed the original 1986 measure to assist Central American refugees, says this resolution makes Urbana the only sanctuary city in downstate Illinois.

Alderman Eric Jakobsson says he spent an hour talking with an opponent on the issue, saying it requires a civil dialogue to recognize where each side is coming from.

“I think these conversations are really important," he said. "It’s really very comfortable to talk into the echo chamber. But I think we ought to get out of it too.”

The only council member opposing the sanctuary resolution was Alderman Mike Madigan, the lone Republican on the Urbana City Council. He says government was founded on the rule of law, and this measure “flies in the face of it.”