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An anti-immigrant resolution in DeKalb County fails

Maria Gardner Lara
DeKalb County's Law and Justice Committee, May 2024.

A resolution to declare DeKalb County a non-sanctuary county failed in a tie vote earlier this month after a strong showing of opposition from community members aired their concerns.

The resolution, which some called anti-welcoming and anti-immigrant was brought forth in the board’s law and justice committee, chaired by Republican Kathy Lampkin.

The resolution highlights favorably measures taken by municipalities like Rosemont and Schaumburg, which passed a hefty hotel tax to deter asylum seekers from longer stays.

The resolution also references the Illinois Trust Act, though it doesn’t explicitly call for its repeal as have been contained in similar resolutions passed in nearby counties.

The Trust Act , passed in 2017 and signed by then Gov. Bruce Rauner, a Republican, prohibits law enforcement from coordinating with immigration officials, except in the event of a judge order.

The resolution offers no action such as imposing a penalty or having any tax implications and is, some argue, sloppily written.

DeKalb County Board member Scott Campbell, who attended the meeting said, “This resolution is reprehensible. "And it serves no purpose other than a political statement by some people that don't like immigrants. As a county board, we should not be getting involved in this.”

DeKalb County resident Mary Hatch in her remarks opposing the resolution addressed an old trope that ties immigrants to crime, which is alluded to in the resolution.

“The language in this resolution emphasizes law enforcement; it's cleverly coded to suggest that immigrants are a threat,” Hatch said. “And this isn't borne out by data. As you've already heard, immigrants are less likely to commit crimes than native residents.”

An NPR report that cites the Cato Institute, The New York Times and The Marshall Project backs up Hatch’s claim.

The majority of the speakers at the meeting spoke against the measure. They were armed with research, Bible passages and moral arguments.

“Last time I checked discrimination against a group of people is illegal and just not right,” said 12-year-old Sydney Nall. “This is how genocide stuff starts with little things, such as, such as discriminating against little groups of people.”

Sydney Nall, 12, addresses the DeKalb County Law and Justice Committee as the committe's chair Kathy Lampkins looks on, May 2024.
Maria Gardner Lara
Sydney Nall, 12, addresses the DeKalb County Law and Justice Committee as the committe's chair Kathy Lampkins looks on, May 2024.

The public comment period was extended to allow for more community members to speak. And throughout the meeting, those against the resolution carried signs that read “vote no.”

The resolution failed in a tie vote on a motion made by County board member Republican Tim Bagby to bypass a committee vote on the resolution and instead bring the resolution for the full board to consider.

Lampkins said she wanted to give the full board a chance to vote on the resolution, since she hadn’t received any feedback from board members regarding the resolution.

But, DeKalb County Board member Democrat Rukisha Crawford refuted that claim. She said information about the resolution was not shared with the board. Crawford added, she would vote 'no' if the resolution was brought forth for the full board to consider.

“We showed up and that should be enough to show that we are not in favor of the resolution being passed at the county board,” Crawford said.

DeKalb County Board member Democrat Stewart Ogilvie also attended the meeting and addressed the committee to urge a “no” vote.

And during the committee's April meeting, DeKalb County Board member John Frieders spoke to the board calling for support for the resolution.

Lampkins, Bagby, and Republican DeKalb County Board member Patrick Deutsch voted to forward the resolution to the full board for a vote, while Republican DeKalb County Board member Maureen Little joined the committee’s Democrat board members, Amber Quitno and County Board Chair Ellingsworth Webb, to vote against the motion.

“I was coming in to vote yes, and moving the resolution onto the board, but I in all good conscience I couldn't do it," Little said. "I work for a church, and my family was all immigrants, and it was just so heartfelt.”

Webb said the resolution was about satisfying a small group of people who feel left out and scared.

“There is something in their heart, or in their minds, or that's been told to them – misinformation - that they think it's going to happen,” Webb said. “We don't have a bus load of anybody coming. If that was the case, the university would be signing them all up right now.”

Lampkins declined a request for an interview.

During public comments, speakers addressed misinformation surrounding the asylum seeker status.

“Asylum seekers access the rights granted to them by federal immigration law,” Hatch said.

Frankie Diciaccio, the lead coordinator of DeKalb Migrant Aid, defined who is an asylum seeker.

“People fleeing persecution based on race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group, or political opinion can claim asylum in the US,” Diciaccio said.

He added that after a person is vetted at the border, they're granted entry and permitted to stay in the U.S. while they await a hearing with an asylum judge.

Some speakers, like Laura Rodriguez, criticized the term “illegal immigrant” used by those in favor of the resolution.

“There are numerous myths about undocumented immigrants, and much dehumanizing rhetoric,” Rodriguez said. “Let us just cut to the chase. This is the sort of rhetoric we have come to expect from xenophobic conservative fearmongers.”

While the discussion on the resolution in the county has been shelved, in Washington, D.C. a federal bill that seeks to address concerns about the border continues to be debated.

A Chicago native, Maria earned a Master's Degree in Public Affairs Reporting from the University of Illinois Springfield . Maria is a 2022-2023 corps member for Report for America. RFA is a national service program that places journalists into local newsrooms to report on under-covered issues and communities. It is an initiative of The GroundTruth Project, a nonprofit journalism organization. Un residente nativo de Chicago, Maria se graduó de University of Illinois Springfield con una licenciatura superior en periodismo de gobierno.