On Monday, April 24, Morton Grove will debate an AISC-drafted Welcoming Community Ordinance. Although responses have been overwhelmingly positive, Village authorities have expressed caution and called for a town-hall style meeting to be held at the Civic Center, 6140 Dempster Street.
A small but vocal group of opponents has been raising the alarm that the proposed Welcoming Ordinance will run afoul of federal law and jeopardize funding. Today AISC issued a statement (linked here: Welcoming Ordinance Letter 4 17 17 10 pm; full text below) refuting this argument. Since these arguments are commonplace wherever there is resistance to similar local initiatives, the information presented may be useful. Please contact AISC for more background or other resources- we’re here to help!
STATEMENT OF AMERICANS IN SOLIDARITY – CHICAGO ON MORTON GROVE WELCOMING COMMUNITY ORDINANCE AND FEDERAL FUNDS
In response to calls for a Welcoming Community Ordinance by Morton Grove residents, businesses, religious leaders, and community organizations (including Americans in Solidarity- Chicago, which is based in Morton Grove), a handful of opponents have argued that the Ordinance would threaten Morton Grove’s access to federal funds and increase residents’ tax burden. This argument is not supported by the contents of the proposed Welcoming Ordinance or relevant law. In reality, the proposed Ordinance complies with federal law, even under the stringent policies urged by the Trump Administration against so-called “sanctuary cities,” preserving Village access to federal funding (although the Village receives little if any direct funds). By contrast, the kind of aggressive voluntary assistance in federal immigration enforcement that the Ordinance seeks to prevent could very well lead to lawsuits and financial liability for the Village—costs that would be borne by residents. Therefore, the prudent approach is to embrace rather than reject the Welcoming Community Ordinance.
The Welcoming Community Ordinance Does Not Authorize Violations of Federal Law
Some opponents of the Ordinance appear to be basing their arguments on personal opinion of federal immigration policy and media reports, rather than the actual text of the proposed Welcoming Ordinance. While they argue that the Welcoming Ordinance will promote crime or violations of federal law, the Welcoming Ordinance specifically says that it does not apply to situations where there is a criminal warrant or even suspicion of a crime. If there is a warrant or suspected crime, regardless of what the crime is, then police can follow all of their ordinary procedures. In short, no one who is committing a crime, whether it is a local speeding violation or a federal crime relating to immigration, can benefit from the Welcoming Ordinance. The Welcoming Ordinance simply does not allow anyone to “get away” with a criminal offense.
Local Police Are Not Required to Act as Enforcers of Immigration Status Rules
The Welcoming Ordinance does say that Village police will not detain or investigate people solely based on potential civil immigration status violations, reinforcing the common- sense concept (which is also the long-standing policy of the Police Department) that local police are not designed, or required, to investigate or take action on such civil immigration issues.
This is not a legally controversial stance: even the federal government acknowledges that it can’t require local police to engage in such enforcement. As the United States Congressional Research Service wrote in a report less than one month ago: “local restrictions on police authority to arrest persons for federal immigration law violations do not appear to raise significant legal issues . . . nothing in the [Immigration and Naturalization Act] compels such participation.” Just last week the Trump Administration acknowledged in litigation against the City of San Francisco that the federal government cannot require local communities to hold individuals in detention for civil immigration status violations when they would otherwise be released. And it is settled law that the federal government cannot attach conditions to federal money that are unrelated to the purpose of the grant merely to coerce local governments into acting in ways the government could not otherwise require.
In short, the provisions of the Welcoming Ordinance that prohibit investigating, arresting, or detaining individuals based solely on potential immigration status violations are not only consistent with the existing policy and practice of the Morton Grove Police Department, but also consistent with federal law. They do not threaten federal funding.
The Welcoming Ordinance Complies with the Laws Emphasized In Trump Administration Policies Targeting So-Called “Sanctuary Cities”
In recent months, the Trump Administration has threatened a crackdown and withholding of federal funding from “sanctuary cities.” President Trump’s January 25, 2017 Executive Order and subsequent speeches by Attorney General Sessions indicate that such action would target municipalities that violate a specific statute, codified in the United States Code as 8 U.S.C. § 1373. In other words, federal funding could be withheld from towns that do not comply with “Section 1373.”
Fortunately, the Welcoming Ordinance complies with Section 1373. Section 1373 provides that states and cities cannot prohibit their employees from communicating with federal immigration authorities “regarding the immigration status . . . of any individual.” The Welcoming Ordinance specifically complies with this requirement by stating that Village employees (including police) are expressly allowed to communicate with federal authorities to determine the basis for any request to detain an individual. The only communication they are not allowed to have—and which is not required by federal law—is communication to coordinate with federal authorities regarding the timing of individuals’ release from Village custody (a scenario unlikely to play out in real life since the Village generally transfers its detainees to Cook County).
This is not a coincidence. The Welcoming Ordinance was drafted based on a thorough review of existing law, best practices, and policies that have been implemented successfully in other jurisdictions. This includes compliance with Section 1373 and all applicable federal laws specifically so that the Village does not come into conflict with federal authorities, and does not lose access to federal funds.
The Welcoming Ordinance Is a Financially Prudent Focusing of Local Police Activities
Far from being a threat to the Village’s finances, the Welcoming Ordinance is financially sound policy. In addition to complying with all federal laws, including those emphasized by the Trump Administration, if anything it will save money by focusing Morton Grove law enforcement activity on the core public safety mission for which it was designed. This is particularly true because the federal government generally does not reimburse state or local law enforcement for costs, including overtime, associated with voluntary enforcement of federal immigration policies—that cost is covered by individual towns and, in turn, local taxpayers.
Second, by preventing local police from becoming engaged in increasingly aggressive federal enforcement, it may actually prevent the Village from becoming a defendant in litigation challenging those enforcement activities. For example, a federal court in Chicago ruled in October 2016 that the vast majority of voluntary detainer requests issued by ICE’s Chicago Field Office—thousands of requests to local law enforcement to detain individuals based on supposed immigration status violations—were unlawful and in excess of the government’s authority. By preventing Morton Grove from becoming involved in such instances, the Welcoming Ordinance will keep the Village out of costly litigation in the future. This is particularly important given that the ACLU and numerous other organizations have vowed to aggressively pursue such litigation.
A Matter of Principle and Sound Policy
In conclusion, the argument that the Welcoming Ordinance violates federal law or threatens federal funding for the Village of Morton Grove is unfounded. The Welcoming Ordinance complies with all relevant legal authority. Yet some opponents have argued that, even though the Ordinance complies with the law, it should be set aside because federal authorities could still decide to act vindictively against Morton Grove.
Respectfully, this argument prompts the question of what kind of community we want to be. Do we want to be a community so timid in defense of its values that it declines to exercise its legal rights for fear that someone else will go outside the law to inflict illegal punishment? If so, what is the limit and where would we ever draw a line? How far from the requirements of the law and basic human decency would we retreat in hopes of avoiding the wrath of pure power unrestrained by law or justice?
All we can reasonably do is to live out our values as a community guided by our best understanding of the law. Having taken steps to ensure we comply with federal laws as written and interpreted by courts, we would head down a slippery and dangerous slope if we were to base our decisions on what governmental directives may be given in violation of those same laws. The proposed Welcoming Ordinance is a sound, measured attempt to enshrine our community’s values of equality, inclusiveness, and openness within the parameters of the law and it deserves all of our support.
April 17, 2017