Sanctuary status won't succumb to threats, Oak Park vows
Oak Park intends to remain a sanctuary city regardless of words or actions at the federal level, Mayor Anan Abu-Taleb told the Chicago Tribune recently.
"My hope is the president does not follow up on the threats he is making, but our city and other cities have anticipated such a threat," Abu-Taleb said. "I am pretty optimistic and confident that we're going to be OK. That money is due to us, and we expect it. We also expect to stay as a sanctuary city."
Cities that have passed ordinances to become so-called sanctuaries have taken it upon themselves to refuse to support federal immigration enforcement efforts unless a criminal warrant is provided. U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions has warned the cities that they could face sanctions and the loss of government funds for law enforcement.
The Oak Park Board of Trustees unanimously voted to make the city a sanctuary in February. At the time, Mony Ruiz-Velasco, executive director of the PASO West Suburban Action Project, an immigrants' rights nonprofit organization, urged passage.
"The ordinance you will be voting on tonight is the strongest, most progressive and inclusive ordinance in the country," she said.
Mony Ruiz-Velasco and PASO spearheaded the Oak Park movement, which many saw as a direct indictment of President Donald Trump’s hardline stance on immigration and call for greater cooperation by cities across the country with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials rounding up and ultimately deporting undocumented immigrants.
In Oak Park, immigrants and supporters packed the village hall, one by one taking the podium to share individual stories and express their collective support for one another.
Later, an overjoyed Ruiz-Velasco reflected that the so-called Welcoming Village bill is an example of Oak Park staying true to its strong historical values of equality, diversity and justice.
Park Forest Mayor Tony Calderone isn’t so sure a reminder of that was needed.
“I think all communities in Cook County have been sanctuary cities that adopted ordinances years ago not to pursue ICE matters,” he told the West Cook News. “I think all the excitement is based on this being a hot topic of the day.”
The ordinance is a stronger version of a bill originally proposed by Rep. Emanuel Chris Welch (D-Westchester) in January. Supporters worked to tighten a loophole that would have allowed local law enforcement to cooperate with federal immigration officials under certain circumstances.
Village employees are now banned from assisting "in the investigation of the citizenship or immigration status of any person unless such inquiry or investigation is required by an order of a court of competent jurisdiction."
Village workers are also barred from accepting any requests from ICE regarding federal immigration enforcement operations, and are immediately required to make such requests known to their superiors.
While some hold out the fact that Abu-Taleb is Palestinian and grew up in a Muslim household in the Gaza Strip as an example of what exclusion can breed, Calderone said proof wasn't necessary.
“It’s never been an issue here, but the federal government needs to come up with a national standard,” he said.