Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Mayor Feinen's weak tea on immigration

Three weeks ago, Champaign mayor Deborah Feinen released a disappointingly tepid statement about immigration. Clearly driven by Trump's Muslim ban (the first iteration, since struck down), his promise to crack down on undocumented immigrants, and Urbana's designation as a sanctuary city, she said in part:
I want to reassure our residents that the City of Champaign remains committed to fostering a friendly and welcoming community for all who choose to live here.  We are proud of our strong, diverse, and inclusive community – one that works together to improve the quality of life and promote equal opportunities for all.
OK, that's good and all, but missing from her statement is any discussion of actual city policy, especially as it pertains to undocumented immigrants. She does reference the City's Human Rights Ordinance, which does prohibit discrimination based on national origin, but doesn't mention immigration status.
This is most relevant when it comes to law enforcement. Trump is reactivating the ICE 287(g) program that deputized local law enforcement to act as immigration officers. It's not clear what Feinen's statement means for police interactions with Champaign residents. Champaign Chief of Police Anthony Cobb has placed the department's entire policy and procedure manual online, but it makes no real mention of immigration. (Let me note that I think it's great he has taken this step of transparency in local government.) Feinen's statement leaves me with even more questions than it answers.
  • Are City agencies free to ask residents about their immigration status?
  • Can they report that status to authorities?
  • Can they use it as the basis to refuse City services to residents?
  • Can Champaign police officers detain people solely because they think are undocumented?
  • Can Champaign police question crime victims and witnesses, let alone suspects, about their immigration status?
  • Will Champaign police refuse to partner with ICE in a 287(g) program? (Unlikely, as they didn't before.)
I can find no documented City policy regarding these matters.
Chicago also claims sanctuary city status and makes it very clear what this means and what they will not do. Personally, I don't want to see Champaign police resources taken away from dealing with local crimes to do federal immigration enforcement.
I encourage Mayor Feinen and the Champaign City Council to claim sanctuary city status like Urbana has done. Hell, just use the Chicago ordinance as a template.
Unless Mayor Feinen is willing to put official City policy behind her statement, this is very weak tea, indeed.