RF board passes welcoming resolution

Months-long process ends with 4-2 vote

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By Thomas Vogel

Staff Reporter

The River Forest Board of Trustees adopted a welcoming resolution at its Aug. 21 meeting after nearly an hour of, at times, passionate discussion before a standing-room-only crowd at village hall. 

The vote, a 4-2 split with trustees Mike Gibbs and Carmela Corsini dissenting, came after Corsini moved to strike a section of the resolution related to non-judicial immigration warrants or detainers. But Trustee Thomas Cargie immediately moved to table her motion, which then passed. 

River Forest now joins other neighboring communities, like Forest Park and Oak Park, which have adopted similar ordinances and resolutions in recent months, spelling out protections for undocumented individuals. 

"I cannot and will not be associated with language in Section 6 or any other language that does not provide for full cooperation with all levels of law enforcement," Gibbs said. "I do not apologize that I feel confident in United States law enforcement. I would rather thank them for protecting me than restrict the tools that they provide that protection with." 

A U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) detainer or warrant is not issued by a judge. It is a request from an ICE officer to a local law enforcement agency to hold an individual. 

Gibbs said the board had reached unanimous consent at its June meeting to pass something similar to Forest Park. As reported by Wednesday Journal, some River Forest residents and elected officials, including Trustee Respicio Vazquez, said Forest Park's language was not strong enough and wanted to tweak it, in part by adding specific language about using local funds to enforce federal immigration laws. 

Village President Catherine Adduci said at the board's July meeting that trustees needed to "build some consensus" around a draft document. But Monday's board discussion and the 4-2 vote showed a split remained. 

"I respect everyone's opinion, but I am not sure why we are struggling with this," Vazquez said. "What people are asking for is a commitment. We are claiming, and I say claiming, that we are welcoming, and that we respect everybody and that we want to make sure we live in a peaceful community. But yet when someone asks us to put it in writing, we're coming up with more reasons we shouldn't."

Cargie, who is a lawyer, said he was supportive of the resolution for several reasons. 

"From a legal perspective, I am quite comfortable everything in here is appropriate," Cargie said. "The other prism with which I looked at this was the morality of it. … These are human beings. The way that ICE has carried out these orders is abominable. They're staking out child care centers, court houses; they are staking out hospitals."

Vazquez, responding to Gibbs and Corsini, said Section 6 does not disregard court orders or warrants issued by a judge. 

"It says that if there is a valid, enforceable warrant or court order, then we would abide by that," Vazquez said. "What that language is saying is we are not going to be enforcing an order that is not enforceable by a judge."

"I feel very comfortable with this resolution and urge the village board to approve this resolution as stands," Adduci said. "It is a statement of our values for our community. It clearly tells neighboring communities and others who we are."

"I am afraid as I look around our country that there are groups that think they are superior to other groups," Trustee Susan Conti said.

 She later added she was not "thrilled" with Section 6 of the resolution but would vote for it. 

"I am happy to support a resolution that reaffirms our village's continued commitment that we treat all people equally, respectfully and lawfully." Corsini said. "I am troubled however with Section 6." 

Corsini later said Section 6 created a "slippery slope" and that instances of ICE requests to River Forest police have not been very common, so that section was unnecessary. 

"What problem are we trying to solve?" Corsini said. "The language is confusing and ambiguous." 

As at previous board meetings in June and July, a handful of River Forest residents spoke, using historical anecdotes and personal stories, to urge trustees to pass the resolution. 

"Right now, we are being asked to reaffirm our values," Heidi Kieselstein said. "It is not enough to say we are fine here, we do the right thing, that we are welcoming village. That's not sufficient. It's not sufficient because people are questioning it, people are challenging it. When someone challenges us, we have to be very, very clear exactly where we stand."

"The reason I am so for this resolution is because I believe it represents the values of River Forest today," said Vanessa Druckman, who was born in France and moved to the United States when she was 10. "By voting yes, we are sending a message." 

"I've always been for it, but things are different now. It is even more important now than ever to demonstrate who we are as a village," said Deb Goldstein, mentioning recent events in Charlottesville, Virginia. "The context in which you'll be voting on this ordinance has changed in the last week." 

"The overwhelming public input we have received on this topic has been from non-residents of River Forest," Gibbs said. At board meetings in the last several months, public comment has been a mix of residents and non-residents. OPRF teacher and local activist Anthony Clark, for instance, has spoken several times. There have been faith leaders and other activists from neighboring communities, too. "In contrast," Gibbs added, "the private contact I've had has encouraged me to not approve this resolution." 

That comment in particular prompted a few attendees to yell out. 

"That's not true," one man said.

"Shame on you," said a woman. 

"What about us?" another woman asked. 

Reader Comments

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Maria E Preuhs-Chavez  

Posted: August 28th, 2017 12:56 PM

I am grateful that so many citizens of River Forest came to support the welcoming resolution and that it passed. It makes me proud to be a resident of the village. It does make me sad to read comments here that refer to people as illegal aliens. This is a term that was created and is used to dehumanize people. It is used to put fear into the majority. "These aliens are criminals, they're dirty, they might have diseases, they're less intelligent, they're rapist" . The truth is that the majority of undocumented people pay taxes, care for their families and contribute positively to society despite their disadvantages. We as a country should be grateful that so many immigrants are willing to work in the fields picking the food that we eat, cooking our meals and washing the dishes we eat from, they clean the office buildings we work in and care for our children when we go to our jobs every day. It's sad to hear so many people who themselves or whose ancestors were also immigrants show so little compassion for people who are doing their best under difficult circumstances. Next time you talk with your grandparents about their experiences as an immigrant ask how it felt to be discriminated against and remember that there were people saying ugly things about them as well.

Stephanie Vanderschie from River Forest  

Posted: August 24th, 2017 3:04 PM

I am so proud to be part of the group of people advocating for the Welcoming Village Resolution. Many people did more than me, and I thank them profusely.

Ken Stucken  

Posted: August 24th, 2017 2:16 PM

You deserve the government you voted for.

Ramona Lopez  

Posted: August 24th, 2017 9:41 AM

As someone who went through the arduous task of going through the proper channels and literally waiting years to become a citizen, I find this a slap in the face. Being a citizen of the United States is an honor and should not be taken lightly. Please stop pandering to people who break the law to reap the benefits of YOUR efforts. The feel good, social justice bandwagon will soon backfire as you will soon discover that providing for the millions of undocumented is simply not sustainable. If the citizenry of River Forest want to find a cause, they need to look no further than Maywood or Austin. There you will find black youth who live in much worse conditions than those you are trying to appease from Mexico.

Barbara Joan  

Posted: August 24th, 2017 9:06 AM

"Many of us enjoy tremendous privilege--agreed!...Exactly what " sanctuary" will River Forest be providing ACTION speak louder than WORDS...! Dominican University has loudly proclaimed their support for this initiative; and being the well endowed elite institution it is---;Dominican University can turn one of their dormitory into permanent housing for refugees and illegal aliens and offer three meals a day to those living there, plus a free college education.to the adults while the young children attend RF and OPRF schools.Nearby Loyola University Hospital can provide free healthcare too since the Pope endorses such offerings to refugees and illegal aliens...Why hasn't River Forest offered such accommodations to legal citizens and residents living in the worst conditions in the USA like the thousands of people suffering on the south and west sides of Chicago?

Barbara Best from OP, RF resident until 6/17  

Posted: August 24th, 2017 8:42 AM

I was so proud to be among fellow residents Monday evening, proud of the speakers who displayed courage and eloquence. But the people on the hot seat were the Board members, and I was especially impressed with their full engagement to assess this issue on a personal level as well as in their role to fulfill the oath they took to represent the Village. They have listened to their constituents, done legal research, evaluated the impact of the political climate on safety and community cultures, as well as personal soul searching I am also grateful for the Board members who voted YES for all the right reasons: To value and respect the rights of ALL people, to follow our constitution and not be bullied by forces to help do "their work" and support someone's agenda, and moreover, to do the right thing for us today and our children tomorrow! This Resolution was not about protecting illegal immigrants. It was about protecting every person's rights, regardless of race, religion, ethnicity or social economic status. Many of us enjoy tremendous privilege which blinds us to rights and treatment we take for granted.

Barbara Joan  

Posted: August 24th, 2017 7:56 AM

Does this mean that River Forest will be opening an illegal aliens & refugees community center and housing complex where people would live indefinitely-- and it would be financed by the taxpayers of River Forest?The hypocrisy of an elitist community proclaiming they are for breaking the law in the name of social justice is insulting and laughable. It's a phony gesture to ensure no such thing actually happens in their own wealthy community. if we say we support it, nobody will bother us thinking....... "It is a statement of our values for our community. It clearly tells neighboring communities and others who we are." "I am afraid as I look around our country that there are groups that think they are superior to other groups,"

Sarah Elizabeth Joyce from River Forest  

Posted: August 23rd, 2017 8:17 PM

On behalf of the entire RF Welcoming Village Steering Committee, we are grateful for the Wednesday Journal's coverage of this story. We do wish to provide some REAL facts in response to the ALTERNATIVE FACTS espoused by Trustee Gibbs and quoted in the story: 688 people responded to a petition supporting the resolution. Of these people, 604 were RF residents. Of the balance, 70 signers work or go to school in River Forest. Only 14 signers of the petition did not live, work, or go to school in River Forest. At the 3 very well-attended village meetings where this issue was discussed, the audience and speakers in support of the resolution were almost exclusively RF residents. The people who organized the effort, spoke on behalf of the resolution, and worked to gather community support were RF residents with vital support from religious leaders and teachers who work in and support the RF community. Although there were 3 opportunities to speak against this resolution, not a single person spoke against the passing of a strong resolution. The assertion by Trustee Gibbs that this was a push from people outside of our village is simply a falsehood. RF Welcoming Village Steering Committee

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