Last night, Oak Park made history. The Village Board passed the most inclusive sanctuary city ordinance in the nation.
The ordinance will protect our community’s undocumented immigrants. It bans Oak Park officials, including the police, from turning over undocumented to federal immigration officials without a court ordered criminal warrant.
When first proposed to the Village of Oak Park, an ordinance was crafted very similar to those in Chicago and Evanston that include carve-outs or loopholes that allow undocumented immigrants to be turned over to ICE if they are suspected of being engaged in criminal activity or have a felony on their record. Instead, the ordinance guarantees every person due process.
This would not have happened without the organizing of a broad coalition of concerned citizens and organizations. This past Saturday over 350 turned out in 25 degree wither to express our support for a truly inclusive welcoming ordinance and because of this organizing, the proposal put in front of the village trustees is one that all of us can be proud of.
Last night, again, hundreds of concerned citizens turned out for the Village Board meeting. And it was inspiring as several speakers shared. I was most effected by a young man who lives in Oak Park when he announced, “I am undocumented and unafraid.” He described how for years his family lived in fear that their status would be discovered. He said there are up to 1,000 families in Oak Park that will be able to rest more freely with this ordinance.
Both one person giving testimony and Oak Park Trustee Adam Salzman shared that their grandparents fled the holocaust, and many of their relatives lost their lives. The sharing was truly sobering. The last person to speak was Mayor Anan Abu-Taleb. He began saying, "I am an immigrant who grew up in a Muslim country." He said that he is ever thankful for the day he came to the United States, the land of human rights and opportunity. He criticized President Donald Trump's policies as un-American and said that we together must resist. I have a video of this that I hope to figure out how to edit and attach to this!
I spoke on behalf of the Community of Congregations as its president. Here is what I shared:
At the December 8, 2016, board meeting of the Community of Congregations, members of Oak Park Temple Abraham B’nai Zion and Unity Temple Unitarian Universalist Congregation asked us to consider publicly supporting a proposal that Oak Park become a sanctuary city and protect all those who live and visit here.
Our board had a thoughtful conversation and unanimously agreed. It is out of our faith commitments that we stand with those who have prophetically called upon our community to resist the un-American, bullying posture that now characterizes the Trump administration.
We come to this decision with a collective perspective that God calls us to protect the most vulnerable and to promote compassion, equity, and justice in human relations. We believe the inherent worth and dignity of every individual is being abridged and violated in unprecedented ways.
Several of our congregations have been engaged in the work of intercultural sensitivity with the hope of understanding those from other cultures better. It is largely because of this work that there is strong opposition to the carve-outs or loopholes that were originally suggested.
Many of us have become sensitive to the fact that racial minorities are prone to arrest and criminalization in situations where those of us in the dominant white social class would often not. We also have become aware of how lists of individuals suspected of illicit activity can be developed with profound human error. And we believe that every person, regardless if one is a legal citizen or not, should receive due process.
We thank you for your leadership and ask that you vote on the strong welcoming ordinance that is a result of a broad coalition of thoughtful, committed citizens.
Because the trustees unanimously passed this ordinance, Oak Park has provided a model for other communities to become sanctuary cities that are truly welcoming!