BLOOMINGTON — While Mayor Tari Renner decided Monday to scrap a vote on a welcoming-city ordinance and instead asked the police chief to draft a new policy for his department, activists supporting undocumented immigrants vowed not to give up their fight.
"Our work does not end tonight just because the mayor has decided to cancel it," said Keep Families Together Campaign coalition member Maura Toro-Morn of Renner's decision to cancel a special meeting on the proposed ordinance. "I think you will find us marching, you will find us continuing to rally."
She was among about 40 people who rallied at City Hall before the City Council's regular meeting, which did not address the proposed ordinance.
"We are not giving up," said Sonny Garcia of Illinois People's Action, which is part of the coalition. "Hopefully, through more agitation, through more grassroots organizing we're able to build the power and strength necessary to pass an ordinance in the very near future."
Toro-Morn and Garcia both spoke during the 10-minute rally that was followed by another gathering led by Regina Noland and attended by nine people who oppose the city adopting a welcoming-city ordinance.
In canceling the special council meeting, Renner cited a lack of support from both a majority of the aldermen and coalition members for the proposed ordinance as written by the city staff.
He added future City Council meetings on the topic "are not anticipated."
Instead, Renner recommended that the "chief of police develop and widely disseminate detailed policies and procedures" regarding Bloomington Police Department interactions with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement. "These policies and procedures should speak directly to the concerns of individuals who may fear reporting crimes," he said.
"It is further recommended that the Public Safety and Community Relations Board assist in distributing the policies and procedures and in educating our residents about the facts with regard to BPD and ICE interactions," he added. "Data on BPD interactions with ICE can become part of the routine statistical reports of the department to the public."
Police Chief Clay Wheeler said: "It sounds like a fair request. We'll try to accommodate the mayor.
"Our interactions with ICE are rare, but we'll be working to meet Mayor Renner's recommendation by creating some policy that will protect (immigrants') interests and safety and include them in the community."
The coalition said over the weekend that the proposed ordinance "falls short of protecting undocumented immigrants due to lack of strong policy, accountability and transparency. Our council can, and should, do better."
"The proposal before the council is not a welcoming ordinance, as it does not take any meaningful action to limit collaboration between the Bloomington Police Department and ... ICE, which is the very purpose of welcoming community ordinances," said the coalition in a statement.
That provision was not included in the welcoming-city ordinance adopted in Normal in May.
Normal's policy offers residents assurances Normal police officers will carefully consider their interactions with ICE and tell residents why officers are requesting their citizenship information, but coalition members have said Bloomington's policy would need to be different because they don't have the same level of trust with city officials.
Wheeler said he has spoken with Normal Police Chief Rick Bleichner about Normal Police Department's newly created policy.
"Actually, it's my intention to try to mirror that policy as much as possible so we have consistency in how the immigrant communities can expect to be treated," said Wheeler. "We can have further discussions from there."
Wheeler noted, however, he was working to develop a police department policy and that any ordinance would have to go through the City Council.
“We really welcome a strong police policy, but it doesn’t have the same weight that an ordinance adopted by the whole City Council would have," said coalition member Charlotte Alvarez of the Immigration Project.
"We have been advocating for an ordinance because an ordinance is a law that goes beyond a particular person or administration," she added. "We want long-term safety and security for our residents."
Normal's ordinance, which was developed with input from the coalition, differs from the one drafted by Bloomington, she noted.
“In the Normal ordinance it says there is not going to be any cooperation or contact with ICE unless their procedure is followed and it lays out the rules for how that decision is made," said Alvarez.
"It also spells out the accountability and transparency mechanisms in the ordinance, and then the police policy follows that language. It really implements what the ordinance is directing."