Jackson County Board failed to pass “safe and welcoming county” resolution for immigrants


Martha Osornio, a senior from Chicago studying cinema and photography, holds a “Hate has no home here.” sign Tuesday, April 11, 2017, during a city council meeting at the Carbondale Civic Center. Osornio, whose family immigrated illegally to the United States in 1992, attended the meeting with five other students from the Hispanic Student Council to support the resolution establishing Carbondale as a safe and welcoming community. Osornio said she has friends in Chicago who fear they might be deported for insignificant issues if they enrolled at SIU. “It makes them feel like they are welcomed, anyone that is undocumented,” Osornio said. (Athena Chrysanthou | @Chrysant1Athena)

By Cory Ray

The Jackson County Board faced a deadlock Tuesday evening as it failed to adopt a resolution that would proclaim the county as a safe and welcoming community for immigrants.

Six board members opposed the adoption of the resolution while six others voted in favor of it; with a split vote and no majority, the resolution did not pass.

Carbondale passed a similar resolution in April.


For 30 minutes both sides voiced their opinions in a heated debate that ranged from applause to frequent interruption of proponents by the opposition.

“Illegal means it’s against the law: it’s not lawful,” said Jackson County resident Reginald Hampton, who spoke in opposition and was later removed from the meeting for repeatedly interrupting the chairperson. “We have a system, and if you don’t abide by the system, it breaks down.”

The resolution was not a legal document as the federal government deals with immigration matters, not local or state governments.

“This is about just making a statement and clearing up that we are protecting our communities regardless of their immigration status,” said Ana Maria Hernandez, an SIU senior from Chicago studying social work. “It’s just saying this is a symbolic gesture.”

The proposal cited SIU as major contributor to the immigrant population not only the county but also the region and stated an unwelcome environment could hurt recruitment and retention, damaging the economy of southern Illinois.

In January, university administration rejected becoming a sanctuary school, with SIU System President Randy Dunn saying such an adoption could “put all of its students at risk” regarding potential university conflict with federal law.

The resolution also cited immigrants outside of the university as “integral” to the region’s economy, but many residents in opposition were worried the resolution would send the message of a “sanctuary city” to illegal immigrants.


“We don’t need to be another ‘Little Chicago,'” said Jackson County resident Burley Hall, who argued that the resolution would allow violent illegal criminals inside the county.

Some southern Illinois residents use the phrase ‘Little Chicago’ to alluding the violence in Carbondale mirrors the violence in Chicago.

Section 5 of the resolution asked no county departments or personnel within to actively seek the immigration status of Jackson County residents without prompting from the state or federal government or a court order.

Those in opposition said they worry the resolution could affect how police handle cases.

Board member Scott Comparato, who voted in favor of the resolution, disagreed and said nothing in the resolution would impede the work of the sheriff.

“It says they may not independently enforce federal law,” he said. “This in no way puts our county at odds with the federal government. It is ironic, I think, that the suggestion that we pass a resolution respecting federalism … as something we should be afraid of doing.”

While many immigrants shared Comparato’s views and spoke in favor of the resolution, some saw the measure as unnecessary and asked board members to vote against adoption.

“I have resided in Jackson County since 1986,” said one immigrant in opposition. “I am a foreigner, and I am a citizen. I have never felt unwelcomed … I ran away from Nicaragua for my life; I know what is unsafe, and here we are safe and we are welcome.”

However, Ana Migone, a family practitioner at SIH and a leader in the Spanish mass service at St. Francis Xavier Catholic Church, said she didn’t expect to see the level of animosity toward immigrants from the opposition.

“My heart was pounding so fast,” she said. “I was really worried that something was going to happen.”

Following public comments board members were also given a chance to speak, five of which were interrupted by proponents or opponents.

Of those five, the opposition boo’d three different board members during their talks, prompting the chairperson to ask for respect in the room.

“I think this feels like it would be a nice thing to do,” said Andrew Erbes, who voted no. “But I don’t believe it is the place of this board to pass something of this sort.”

Following the stalemate, many of the opposition clapped and thanked board members, happy with the outcome.

Editor-in-Chief Cory Ray can be reached at cray@dailyegyptian.com or on Twitter @coryray_de.

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