The Oak Park Board of Trustees thumbed its nose at President Donald Trump and unanimously joined the ranks of America’s sanctuary cities, approving an ordinance that immigration advocates said was among the strongest in the nation.
Immigration advocates packed village hall Monday night and lined up at the podium to state their support for the so-called Welcoming Village ordinance.
“The ordinance you will be voting on tonight is the strongest, most progressive and inclusive ordinance in the country,” said Mony Ruiz-Velasco, executive director of PASO West Suburban Action Project, an immigrants’ rights nonprofit organization. Ruiz-Velasco spearheaded the sanctuary city initiative in Oak Park.
She said the move shows Oak Park is “staying true to its strong historical values of equality, diversity and justice.”
“You send a strong message that there is no place in Oak Park for anti-immigrant, anti-Muslim, anti-woman, anti-LGBTQ policies,” Ruiz-Velasco said.
The ordinance was strengthened from a previous version presented to the board in late January that advocates argued included a loophole that would allow local law enforcement to cooperate with federal immigration officials under certain circumstances.
That language was removed in the new ordinance, which was almost universally supported by the advocates at the meeting.
The ordinance passed Monday prevents village employees 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.”
The village also will not accept requests from U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officials on federal immigration enforcement operations. Village employees who receive a request for support or information from ICE or other federal officials “shall report the request to his or her supervisor, who shall decline the request and document the declination in an interoffice memorandum to the agency director through the chain of command.”
Residents, immigration advocates and elected officials took turns speaking in favor of the ordinance Monday – the packed meeting followed a rally in Scoville Park on the issue over the weekend that drew hundreds of supporters.
Although the room was largely in favor of the measure, one man argued that failure to cooperate with federal authorities on immigration would make Oak Park less safe. Larry Morris asked trustees to amend the ordinance and said the proposal should be sent to a public referendum, so Oak Park voters could decide on the issue.
“America becomes better when we work with our federal government,” Morris said, adding later that passage of the ordinance was “nothing more than mob legislation in response to street mob actions.”
Trustee Bob Tucker rebutted the comment, saying the ordinance and the process “is actually American democracy at its best.”
“We’re not going to waste vital police resources on misguided federal actions,” Tucker said.
Oak Park Mayor Anan Abu-Taleb, who is Palestinian and grew up in a Muslim household in the Gaza Strip, had, perhaps, the strongest language for the Trump administration.
Trump’s policies of exclusion and rhetoric of hate run counter to American values, Abu-Taleb said.
“I am outraged by his message and his divisive views,” Abu-Taleb said. “He wishes us to fear one another and he seeks to make us focus on our differences and not our similarities. America should not be a place where a child fears being separated from her parents for deportation.”
Abu-Taleb called out Trump, telling the commander-in-chief, “Mr. President, America is not one of your enterprises. America does not belong to you alone and your associates. America belongs to all of us.”