Forest Park officials are moving closer to adopting a formal “welcoming resolution.” After receiving a draft of the proposed resolution from the village’s Diversity Commission, officials referred it to the village attorney for review and possible changes. Village Administrator Tim Gillian said staff members and elected officials also received copies.
In her remarks during the public comment portion of the March 13 village council meeting, Kate Webster, chairperson of the Diversity Commission, said the commission had been “actively working” on a draft with Mony Ruiz-Velasco, an attorney and executive director of PASO West Suburban Action Project, an immigrant rights nonprofit organization.
“We’ve appreciated the outpouring of support and recognize that many residents are concerned about the resolution,” she said. “To address some of those concerns, I want to inform you of our process and our progress thus far.”
She said the draft of the “welcoming resolution” would affirm three main points.
“First, it affirms that Forest Park is a welcoming city that promotes inclusion for all, regardless of their background, identity or immigration status. It affirms that Forest Park is one that supports and protects all residents of Forest Park regardless of their background, identity or immigration status.
“And it affirms that police officers will continue to do the great work they are doing to prioritize public safety and build community trust with all residents regardless of their background, identity or immigration status,” she continued, adding that there is “a lot more” to the resolution.
Webster also invited “all interested residents to come and share their concerns” at an upcoming Diversity Commission meeting, which will be held on Thursday, April 13.
Mayor Anthony Calderone explained that he had asked the Diversity Commission to submit a proposed “welcoming resolution.”
“This is where we’re at,” he said. “We’ve handed it off to the commission for them to do the background work, the legwork, and then come back to us with a recommendation, a proposal.”
Noting that the March 13 meeting was the third village council meeting at which the resolution was discussed, Calderone said he was hoping to “calm some of the anxiety in Forest Park,” noting that some of it is “unnecessary.”
“As mayor of Forest Park, I am simply asking everyone to just breathe in and exhale and just sit tight,” he said. “It’s not that we’re closing our eyes to the issue. In fact, to the contrary, all of us sitting up here have wide-open eyes. We simply are waiting for the process to work its way through.”
Calderone said the “welcoming resolution” would be an agenda item “at one of our upcoming council meetings” but Gillian said later that no date has been set.
“I’m asking for everybody to calm down,” Calderone said. “In short order we’re going to take the proper step to adopt a resolution that is worthy.”
He also addressed concerns about how the Forest Park Police Departments treats immigrants.
“In the meantime I guarantee there will be no changes in the way the Forest Park Police Department treats any immigrant, which seems to be the topic of the day,” Calderone said. “Our police department does not turn in an undocumented immigrant. They don’t currently and have not.”
He asked Deputy Police Chief Michael Keating to explain that anybody arrested by the Forest Park police is given a sheet explaining his or her rights.
“We don’t call if we think somebody’s undocumented,” Keating explained. “It’s not what we do.”
Calderone also pointed out that Forest Park is already under the umbrella of an ordinance declaring Cook County to be a “welcoming county,” noting “a lot of this is being accounted for and has been accounted for.”