BERWYN – The Berwyn City Council unanimously passed a Welcoming City Ordinance at its April 11 meeting that reinforces the city’s commitment to protecting all of its citizens, regardless of immigration status.
Aldermen Cesar Santoy and Rafael Avila presented the ordinance, which was written in collaboration with a coalition of several area organizations, including Illinois Coalition of Immigrant Rights, West Suburban Action Project, Interfaith Leadership Project, Berwyn Immigration Working Group and Ixchel Committee.
The ordinance separates the responsibilities of local law enforcement and federal immigration enforcement and reinforces the Berwyn Police Department’s role of protecting public safety, not taking on the role of immigration officers.
Many Berwyn residents have expressed fear about deportation, and the ordinance is meant to help ease fears of being deported by local officers. Santoy, who represents the Fifth Ward, said many residents were asking if Berwyn would issue a Welcoming City Ordinance, so he felt it was important for the city to take a clear stance.
“Residents wanted to know if Berwyn would do the right thing by issuing a welcoming ordinance. I’ve never seen so much support for an issue during my time as alderman,” he said. “The ordinance preserves the city’s resources so our Police Department can concentrate on public safety and does not take on additional roles or responsibilities as dictated by a federal agency, immigration or otherwise. This protects our residents and enhances public safety.”
Santoy said members of the Police Department were at the City Council meeting and agree with the ordinance.
“This preserves the role of the Police Department as an institution where people should go for protection and not be afraid. Our residents should feel better that the ordinance was passed,” he said.
Anna Marin, a member of the Berwyn Immigration Working Group, said some residents are scared of local police, and because of that, they may not report crimes. She said the ordinance helps to make Berwyn a safer community because it gives residents more protection.
“When people stop turning to police as law enforcement, crime goes unreported,” she said. “Some people are hesitant to report crimes, and that creates an unsafe community. The ordinance recognizes that every Berwyn resident has a basic level of humanity and dignity and should be able to live life, raise a family, be a member of the community and go to work without fearing for their lives.”
Will Hudson, another member of the working group, said he believes law enforcement should serve all residents and not do the job of federal immigration officers.
“There is widespread fear in immigrant communities now. Families are scared,” he said. “They fear that any interaction with police could turn into potential deportation of a family member. There is so much uncertainty.”
Mayor Robert Lovero fully supports the ordinance. He said he believes the city did “the right thing” by passing it.
“Our country was built by immigrants, and the federal government has failed to give immigrants an avenue to be here legally, and we shouldn’t penalize people or make them fearful of being separated from their families,” he said. “We need to protect our citizens, and I see this as another way to protect them. Our Police Department has a big job, and we shouldn’t burden them with enforcing immigration laws.”