County joining city as immigrant haven?
Tuesday, June 19, 2007
by ESTHER J. CEPEDA
Even as American towns like Hazelton, Pa., and northwest suburban Carpentersville are trying to enact
ordinances to curb illegal immigrants by cracking down on the employers and landlords who profit from
their presence, municipalities across the country are declaring themselves sanctuaries -- havens where
illegal aliens can live without fear that their immigration status will bar them from working or
receiving public benefits.
Today, Cook County might plant itself among the ranks.
A resolution -- which might be undone during today's Cook County Board meeting -- was approved two weeks
ago. If it stands, the "Fair and Equal County for Immigrants" resolution will echo the Chicago City
Council resolution and say that Cook County bureaus, offices, departments and employees are prohibited
from inquiring about or disclosing information about immigration status.
Under County Board procedures, any commissioner who initially voted "yes" for an ordinance can bring it
back to the floor for a re-vote. In this case Commissioner Gregg Goslin (R-Glenview) initially voted
"no" but changed his vote so the full board would be available to vote the measure down.
"He changed to a 'yes' to bring it back for consideration," said Commissioner Liz Gorman (R-Orland
Park), who said she would not support the resolution if the motion to reconsider gets the nine or more
votes necessary to bring the issue back on the table. "It's something that doesn't belong here in the
Cook County government, and it's something that gives a confusing signal to the undocumented workers."
The nonbinding resolution doesn't interfere with law enforcement agents investigating criminal activity
or with medical personnel who need Social Security numbers. But county workers would be prohibited from
asking for immigration papers during traffic stops or reporting suspected illegal immigrants to federal
There is no evidence that illegal immigrants have been hectored by county workers about their
immigration status and the resolution doesn't specify what, if any, recourse illegal immigrants would
have if they were questioned about their immigration status.
"We are a country of immigrants regardless of complexion," said Commissioner Roberto Maldonado
(D-Chicago), who has been championing the measure and had floated his name as a candidate for Rep. Luis
Gutierrez's 4th Congressional District seat. "If workers don't obey, I don't know what victims can do.
We can only legislate actions, not attitudes."
A 2006 report by the Congressional Research Service said 32 cities including Houston, New York, Seattle,
Denver and San Francisco already offer sanctuary, mostly in the form of a "don't ask don't tell" policy,
for illegal immigrants. Los Angeles is believed to be the oldest sanctuary -- declared so in 1979.
Chicago joined the list in March 2006 by Mayor Daley's executive order that "no agent shall request
information about or otherwise investigate or assist in the investigation of citizenship or residency
status of any person unless such an inquiry or investigation is required by statute, ordinance, federal
regulation or court decision."
Outspoken Commissioner Tony Peraica (R-Riverside), himself a Croatian immigrant, may be the swing vote
-- last time around he only voted "present." If the board re-calls the vote, he may have the final word
on whether to kill the measure or let it stand.
"I'm inclined not to vote for it because it's a meaningless political stunt," Peraica said. "I don't see
it having the teeth that it's looking to bring.
"This immigration issue has been hijacked by the forces in the political marketplace, making it akin to
abortion, gun rights and flag desecration," he said. "The U.S. Constitution clearly states under Article
4 that immigration laws are solely reserved for U.S. Congress to determine. Any immigration resolutions
passed by a municipality, county, or state are in violations of the Constitution and effectively have no
Contributing: Steve Patterson