The City’s Human Services Committee on Monday voted 4-1 in favor of the second of three proposed immigration resolutions. The approved resolution broadly calls for comprehensive immigration reform at the federal level but stops short of providing specific guidelines for City employees. The resolution now moves to the Council for action.

Before the committee were three separate proposals. The initial resolution, first introduced to the committee on Jan. 7, aimed to clarify the community’s support for the local immigrant population. It offered specific guidelines for City employees to ensure that immigration status is not a barrier to receiving social services or unlawfully used in criminal complaints against non-citizens. Concerned that the first resolution would bring undo attention from federal immigration authorities to Evanston, Alderman Lionel Jean-Baptiste, 2nd Ward, drafted the broader resolution recommended by the committee.  The third proposal was a combination of the two. 

At last month’s meeting, the committee postponed a vote on the resolutions to allow time for the City’s law department to conduct a thorough review of the relevant federal immigration statutes. City staff attorney Lisa Woods told the committee on Monday there were two key federal laws at play regarding the third resolution: 8 USC 1634 and 8 USC 1373. Ms. Woods was particularly concerned about language in the first and third resolutions that would have prohibited City employees from disclosing a person’s immigration status to federal authorities. According to federal law, Ms. Woods said, “the City cannot prohibit voluntary disclosure of immigration status.” 

Ald. Edmund Moran, 6th Ward, who co-authored both the first and third resolutions, inquired as to whether the phrase in the resolution, “… unless required to
do so by law …” was sufficient to prevent any preemption of federal authority. “In my mind that [phrase] would remove the objection you perceive,” he told Ms. Woods. 

Ms. Woods’s conclusion, however, was that “in the absence of a law requiring such disclosure, then the [City] employee would be left with voluntary disclosure, and that’s what the proposal would prohibit.”

Ms. Woods said the second resolution, limited to policy statements and calls to action, is “completely legal.” 

Ald. Moran suggested several motions for amendment of the third proposal’s language. The other four committee members did not second them.

“[The third proposal] creates a perception that we can protect people, and I don’t think we can,” said Ald. Jean-Baptiste. “But for the lack of courage in Washington, we wouldn’t be talking about this. … Where we aim to shoot the arrow is at the national policy.”

Ald. Moran, the committee’s lone dissenter, agreed that comprehensive federal immigration reform was necessary, but said the second resolution fails to “signal to our residents that we are making a strong statement of support for our citizens.” 

“We should not say we lost if we do not pass the third option,” said Ald. Jean-Baptiste. “In a sense, I think we do all the things the humane and just treatment [proposal] is calling for.”