News Local/State

Urbana Council Members Discuss Sanctuary City Status


The Urbana City Council will continue its discussion of a resolution affirming its status as a sanctuary city for undocumented immigrants at next regular meeting on Monday, December 19th. But the talk at a Committee of the Whole meeting on Monday the 12th indicated a majority of council members support the resolution in some form.

One of the big supporters is Alderman Eric Jakobsson, who is a professor emeritus of biochemistry at the University of Illinois. Jakobsson said the resolution would not just protect undocumented immigrants ---- but also the University of Illinois’ international reputation. He says the university’s scientific research depends heavily on foreign grad students and collaborations with foreign researchers.

“We have a big economic stake, the university does, but also our community does, in being a welcoming community”, said Jakobsson. “It’s not only a matter of morality. It’s a matter of economic self-interest.”

Jakobsson says one sign that the nation’s reputation for welcoming immigrants is in trouble can be seen with an upcoming international conference for the Bio-Physical Society, in which he is active. The alderman says that since the election of Donald Trump as president, “significant” numbers of foreign scientists have told the Society they’re not attending the annual conference set for this February in New Orleans.

The resolution on the table reaffirms an earlier sanctuary city resolution passed by the Urbana City Council in 1986. That resolution addressed the plight of refugees from central America, in the context of a civil war in El Salvador, in which the administration of President Ronald Reagan supported the military government against a coalition of left-wing guerrilla groups.