News Local/State

Urbana City Council To Vote On Sanctuary City Resolution

The Urbana City Building

The Urbana City Building Jeff Bossert/Illinois Public Media

Urbana aldermen will have their first opportunity Monday to consider making the community a "sanctuary city," joining those like Chicago and New York City. Alderman Eric Jakobsson first brought up the possibility in late November, shortly after the election, amid President-elect Donald Trump’s campaign pledge to deport undocumented immigrants. But he wants the Urbana City Council to consider a proposal other than the one scheduled for a vote in the committee of the whole meeting.

This resolution calls for Governor Bruce Rauner to engage in dialogue on immigration policy, and promote policies that protect, serve, and honor undocumented family members and their neighbors.

The document also states Urbana will fight any effort to cut federal funding for sanctuary cities. But Jakobsson calls that measure mere "rhetoric."

"It says 'we're so wonderful, and everbody should be like us,'" he said. "It doesn't address any of the real issues. There are moral and practical reasons for our society not to deport folks, or treat them any differently, based on how they entered the country. That resolution does not deal with any of that.”

Mayor Laurel Prussing says the resolution vote is simply to reaffirm principles that have been in place for 30 years.

Prussing says she has no knowledge of Urbana police officers ever asking an individual’s immigration status, but she says the city passed a resolution similar to the new one in 1986, dealing primarily with refugees from Central America.

The mayor says Monday's vote is simply about updated language.

“There have been a series of public meetings about it, and we had a lot people turn up at the Urbana City Council," she said. "So it’s not that we’re going to be doing anything differently, we just want to reinforce that we will give equal protection under the laws to everyone.  We don’t quiz people on where they came from.”

While Jakobsson says the resolution is missing key language from an earlier draft ordinance developed by Urbana Human Relations Officer Alex Bautista, Prussing says the document needed to be shorter. Jakobsson says Bautista's resolution specifies that city officials should not inquire about an individual’s immigration status, unless required by a court-ordered warrant.

Last week, University of Illinois President Tim Killeen said the three campuses could not become sanctuaries, in order to uphold state and federal laws.

The Urbana City Council meeting begins at 7 p.m. Monday at the city building.