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Panelists critique Trump immigration policies at Democratic Party of Evanston forum

Mayor-elect+Steve+Hagerty+speaks+at+a+Sunday+immigration+panel+hosted+by+the+Democratic+Party+of+Evanston.+The+panel+discussed+President+Donald+Trump%E2%80%99s+immigration+policy+and+his+recent+executive+orders.
Mayor-elect Steve Hagerty speaks at a Sunday immigration panel hosted by the Democratic Party of Evanston. The panel discussed President Donald Trump’s immigration policy and his recent executive orders.

Mayor-elect Steve Hagerty speaks at a Sunday immigration panel hosted by the Democratic Party of Evanston. The panel discussed President Donald Trump’s immigration policy and his recent executive orders.

Katie Pach/Daily Senior Staffer

Katie Pach/Daily Senior Staffer

Mayor-elect Steve Hagerty speaks at a Sunday immigration panel hosted by the Democratic Party of Evanston. The panel discussed President Donald Trump’s immigration policy and his recent executive orders.

Amelia Langas, Reporter

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Five panelists criticized President Donald Trump’s immigration policies during a forum Sunday hosted by the Democratic Party of Evanston.

The forum was held in light of recent executive orders introduced by Trump that have sought to suspend entry into the United States of people from predominantly Muslim countries. The Trump administration has also looked to suspend a refugee resettlement program and increase security on the U.S.-Mexico border. Some of the orders are currently being challenged in circuit courts.

Roughly 100 people attended the forum held at the Pope John XXIII School, 1120 Washington St. WBEZ Worldview host Jerome McDonnell moderated the panel, which featured Cook County commissioner Larry Suffredin and mayor-elect Steve Hagerty.

“The executive orders offended me as an American more than they offended me as a Muslim,” said panelist Ahmed Rehab, executive director of the Chicago chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations. “There’s a reason why (immigrants) chose to be Americans … and the reason is the values of America.”

Rehab said the “demonization” of immigrants was sparked by Trump’s rhetoric on the campaign trail, and that the executive orders are a continuation of such rhetoric.

“We MUST have strong borders and stop illegal immigration,” Trump tweeted in 2015. “Without that we do not have a country. Also, Mexico is killing U.S. trade. WIN!”

During a February news conference, Trump defended his immigration policies, saying they are geared toward increasing U.S. security by expelling criminals and inhibiting terrorists from entering the country.

Though the executive orders represent a “darker side of America,” Rehab said they also inspired a civil rights movement that evoked protests, marches and rallies.

“It is local government standing up for the people,” Rehab said. “Foremost it’s the people — the protests on the ground, the attorneys helping at the airports — resisting the forms of fascism we’re seeing at the highest levels of government.”

In November, the city introduced an ordinance naming Evanston a “welcoming city.” The ordinance prohibits Evanston employees from asking people about their immigration status unless required by state law or court.

Hagerty said the ordinance reflects the standards and values of the community. Values like human dignity, respect for one another and for love, kindness and fairness are represented in the ordinance, Hagerty said.

“This community is all of our community,” he said. “Whether you’re an immigrant — a documented immigrant, an undocumented immigrant — this is all of our community.”

Al Hofeld, director of the issues committee for DPOE, said he organized the forum because DPOE wanted to demonstrate the inclusivity of Evanston and educate the community about the immigration policies.

“Evanston has always been a diverse, inclusive community and immigrants have always been at the heart of who we are as a people in a pluralistic democracy,” Hofeld said. “We want to continue to see our community and the larger community in our country be that way.”

Like Rehab, Hagerty said the Trump administration uses anti-immigrant rhetoric to elicit fear. Negative rhetoric must be countered with the “vast majority” of narratives about immigrants who are productive and focused on family and community, he said.

Evanston resident Meghan Shea said she attended the forum to educate herself and increase her ability to help those who may feel “vulnerable” under the immigration policies.

“To understand the process of the executive orders and where we are in that process with the courts was helpful,” Shea said. “You hear about all these orders, but you never know where we are exactly.”

Email: amelialangas@u.northwestern.edu
Twitter: @amelialangas

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