Advocates pushing back against President Donald Trump’s immigration policy are focused on Forest Park as the next battleground for establishing a sanctuary city policy.
But their efforts are different than they were in Oak Park, where advocates recently convinced local officials to pass one of the strongest sanctuary city ordinances in the nation.
That’s because Forest Park, unlike its neighbor to the east, is not a home rule city and is therefore not allowed to pass an ordinance stating law enforcement and public employees will not cooperate with federal officials on immigration enforcement.
Mony Ruiz-Velasco, executive director of PASO West Suburban Action Project, an immigrant rights nonprofit organization, said her organization is advocating for Forest Park to approve a resolution with the same strong language preventing police or other village officials from reporting undocumented immigrants.
“It sends a message that this is the kind of village we are, but it’s not enforceable in the same way an ordinance would be,” she said.
The “welcoming community” resolution also includes language providing protections for religious affiliation and sexual orientation, among others.
Forest Park’s Diversity Commission has also joined the effort to craft a welcoming-community resolution.
Village residents Kamau Jones and Deborah McConnaghay started the conversation during the public comment of the well-attended Feb. 13 village council meeting, each asking elected officials to consider passing such a resolution.
Kate Webster, chair of the Diversity Commission, said Mayor Anthony Calderone directed the commission to draft a resolution to be considered by the village council at a future meeting. No timetable has been established.
A reporter’s call to Calderone was not returned by press time.
“There is a lot of fear and confusion in our country and in our communities,” Jones said at the Feb. 13 meeting. “I think it would behoove us to start a conversation about what diversity means, what acceptance means and what our constitution means. I believe this country can be great and often is. I am concerned that sometimes we are not.
He also asked village officials to “consider making a statement that we as a village stand for all Americans and all immigrants,” which brought applause from the majority of a near capacity crowd in the village council chambers.
McConnaghay echoed Jones’ comments, noting that the First Amendment of the Constitution gives citizens the freedom of religion.
“If Muslims are banned, who’s next?” she asked. “Methodists? Baptists? Catholics?”
Her comments also were greeted with applause.
Village resident Christian Olson spoke against consideration of such a resolution, saying the proposal would have many downsides and few benefits.
After the meeting, Jones acknowledged that a welcoming-community resolution is “largely symbolic” but said he felt the need to speak. He said his hope is that the Village Council will pass a welcoming-community resolution similar to the ordinance approved in Oak Park.
He said he sought support by reaching out on social media and attending a meeting of the Diversity Commission.
Jones said reaction has been “largely positive” and cited the Diversity Commission’s unanimous vote to support consideration of a resolution. The next step is to have an open discussion of the subject, he said.
“It would be a good thing to educate people,” Jones said. “We need to dispel the fear that we are being fed.”
Webster agreed that an open discussion would be beneficial.
“I see a need for an open forum to discuss the matter,” she said, adding the Diversity Commission can help with education and awareness.
Calling himself “just a concerned citizen,” Jones said he will do “whatever needs to be done” for a resolution to be passed.
“I have faith that Forest Park will support it,” he said.