City Council amends ‘welcoming city’ ordinance, broadens protections for undocumented residents


(Daily file photo by Katie Pach)

Ald. Cicely Fleming (9th) attends a meeting in the aldermanic library. Fleming and other aldermen voted to amend Evanston’s “welcoming city” ordinance at Monday’s meeting.

Kristina Karisch, Web Editor

Aldermen formally amended Evanston’s “welcoming city” ordinance at Monday’s City Council meeting to include broader protections for undocumented residents.

The amendment expanded a subsection that stated law enforcement officers may not arrest individuals solely on the suspicion they are undocumented unless they are conducting investigations. Under the new amendment, this rule also applies to stops and searches.

Additionally, the amendment clarifies that if law enforcement officers want to stop an individual, they must have a valid judicial warrant.

Marcelo Ferrer, a member of the Welcoming Evanston Coalition, which seeks to foster inclusivity for undocumented residents in the city, said his group wants to raise awareness and help protect Evanston residents.

“We have to make sure more people know what their neighbors are experiencing, and stand up for them,” Ferrer said.

Evanston first introduced its welcoming city ordinance in November 2016, under former Mayor Elizabeth Tisdahl, who at the time said she was looking to clarify Evanston’s sanctuary city status. The ordinance prohibits Evanston employees and federal agents from asking a resident’s immigration status unless required by state law or state court.

In addition to Evanston’s status as a welcoming city, both Evanston school districts in January declared themselves a “safe haven” for families affected by any changes in immigration policy.

At Monday’s meeting, the Welcoming Evanston Coalition pushed for City Council to specify the type of federal warrant required for arrests.

Rachel Heuman, a member of the coalition, said to ensure due process, the group wanted to specify that federal warrants must be issued “by a judge.” The prior language didn’t identify who can issue the federal warrant, just that it had to be valid and enforceable.

But Heuman said only judicial warrants legally allow Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials to make arrests with due process.

“With any other warrant … we are in violation of due process if we allow them to apprehend someone,” Heuman said. “Without those three words, our revision fails to provide protections equivalent to those ensured by the Illinois Trust Act.”

The Trust Act, which was signed in August by Gov. Bruce Rauner, prevents law enforcement officials from detaining individuals across the state solely based on their immigration status, and it limits local cooperation with federal immigration authorities.

Ald. Cicely Fleming (9th), who commended the revised language of the ordinance, stressed its importance both for those who may fear for their immigration status and for black Evanston residents.

“I do want us to be a welcoming city for all people,” Fleming said. “(For) African Americans, we do have some work to do to feel totally welcome here. I’m still working to bridge that divide.”

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