This story was written by Sean Walsh, Daily Northwestern
A pending City Council resolution has placed Evanston in the forefront of the national debate on illegal immigration.
The proposed law, which calls for "humane and just treatment for immigrants and their families," was introduced at the Human Services Committee's Jan. 7 meeting.
The resolution would prevent the Evanston Police Department from investigating individuals solely based on their immigration status, said Ald. Edmund Moran (6th), who was instrumental in the drafting of the resolution. It also calls for the state and federal governments to act on the issue.
"We're disappointed with Congress' failure to pass comprehensive immigration reform," Moran said.
After voting unanimously to hold the proposal in favor, the committee postponed official action on the issue until its Feb. 18 meeting.
Ald. Lionel Jean-Baptiste (2nd) suggested holding the issue in committee so a more diverse spectrum of immigrant communities could voice their concerns.
Moran began working on the issue last year. He met with a group of citizens that collected similar resolutions passed by other municipalities, and decided the Cook County resolution most closely represented Evanston's interests.
They rewrote parts of the document to effectively communicate their message before presenting it to the committee.
Although the council cannot act on the issue until the Human Services Committee recommends that the resolution be adopted, several critics spoke during the citizen comment portion of the council's Jan. 14 meeting.
Illegal immigrants cost Illinois taxpayers $3.5 billion per year in services, mostly in public education, according to a study cited by Rosanna Pulido, field representative for the Federation for American Immigration Reform, who attended the meeting.
FAIR is a nonprofit, special-interest group that aims "to improve border security, to stop illegal immigration, and to promote immigration levels consistent with the national interest," according to its Web site.
The resolution "wasn't very well-written," Pulido said Wednesday during a phone interview. "We're letting the City Council know that they are treading in waters that they do not understand."
Attorneys from the Immigration Reform Law Institute, an organization that works closely with FAIR, are analyzing the resolution to determine whether it is consistent with congressional policy, Pulido said.
Pulido expects an increase in crime if the resolution passes, which would allow Evanston to become a safe haven for illegal immigrants, she said.
Moran disagreed with the correlation, saying arguments like Pulido's are "painting everyone with a very broad brush."
"I have no information that suggests that the prevalence of criminal behavior is higher among immigrant populations," he said.
Ald. Elizabeth Tisdahl (7th) said she supports the resolution, but admits it would change very little about the enforcement of immigration policies in Evanston.
"There's no record of police ever questioning immigrants in Evanston," she said. "I was sorry to see the backlash against illegal immigration after the bill was introduced."
A local business owner in Evanston argued that illegal immigrants factor significantly into the job market.
"As a grandson of an immigrant, my personal opinion is in favor of open immigration," said Dave Glatt of Dave's Italian Kitchen, 1635 Chicago Ave.
Discussion will continue at the next Human Services Committee meeting, which is scheduled for Feb. 18, 7 p.m., at the Evanston Civic Center, 2100 Ridge Ave.
Reach Sean Walsh at firstname.lastname@example.org.
© 2008 Daily Northwestern via U-WIRE