URBANA — The Urbana City Council on Monday night approved a resolution that will officially designate Urbana as a sanctuary city for undocumented immigrants.
The vote was witnessed by a packed room and received a round of applause. It was spurred by President-elect Donald Trump's several campaign promises to deport millions of undocumented immigrants.
Just one council member, Mike Madigan, voted in opposition.
"A bedrock principle of our government is the rule of law," Madigan said. "This is a political overreaction to the election of a president."
About 50 of the meeting's attendees declared support for the decision, and a letter submitted to the council was signed by 200 others in support. Mike Doyle, board member of the C-U Immigration Forum and executive director of the University YMCA, said backing away from the vote would be a mistake.
"I think Trump's threats are about silencing voices and intimidating communities that welcome and embrace immigrants," Doyle said.
Two people spoke in opposition. One said she teaches English to international students so they can apply for U.S. citizenship and called the resolution an insult to them. The other said the move is unnecessary since Champaign County officials handle any Urbana deportations.
Whenever any of the commentators stated something as fact, it was seldom attributed to a source. Alderman Eric Jakobsson said that was not conducive to an effective discussion.
"There are a lot of 'facts' on the internet that are not facts," Jakobsson said. "When we have any sort of issue like this, I go to peer review papers."
Before voting, Alderman Bill Brown reminded the audience that passing the resolution will not give the city the ability to protect someone from being deported. Instead, the resolution vows to:
— "Work with community advocates, policy experts and legal advocates to defend the human rights of immigrants."
— "Respond to requests from immigrant communities to defend them against all crimes ... assist people with limited language proficiency and to connect immigrants with social services."
— "Reject any effort to create religious litmus tests or registries of individuals based on religion or ethnicity."
— "Oppose any plan that threatens to strip federal funding from cities which have adopted policies that protect undocumented immigrants and other non-citizen residents from deportation."
— "Join with councils and mayors from ... around the country to stand with our immigrant residents."
Megan Flowers, communications director and immigrant-friendly communities coordinator at the University YMCA and a Champaign resident, commented, "Champaign is taking notes, and hopefully it will follow suit and work together with Urbana on this."
Alderman Aaron Ammons said he will contact a resident who offered to help translate the resolution into different languages including Spanish.
"To listen to the descendants of people who raped, robbed and murdered Native Americans to gain this particular land —they're saying the behavior of undocumented people is illegal," Ammons said. "If we want to have a civil discourse, we will take all of history into context, or it is not civil in my eyes."
Alderwoman Diane Marlin said she received more phone calls on this issue than any other she has worked on, and a number of those were in opposition.
"The (presidential) election taught us that words matter, and the words spoken throughout the campaign incited fear on both sides. These are good words, they tell the world where we stand," Marlin said of the resolution. "Words matter, and I stand behind these words."