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Hola es su centro para mantenerse informado, compartir ideas y conectarse con recursos. (Hola is your hub to stay informed, share ideas, and connect with resources in northern Illinois.)

Stephenson County expected to vote on ‘non-sanctuary’ resolution

Stephenson County Board members
Stephenson County Board members listen on during full board meeting on March 21, 2024.

The Stephenson County Board is expected to declare itself a non-sanctuary county. It’s the latest board in northern Illinois to delve into immigration issues - a subject that’s been a contentious and divisive topic this election season.

Officials in the Stephenson County Sheriff’s Department say they don’t know of any buses that have dropped off migrants in the area.

Nevertheless, the Stephenson County Board is expected to vote on a resolution declaring itself a non-sanctuary county.

Ogle and Winnebago counties have passed similar measures.

Stephenson County Board member Adam Moderow voted against the resolution when it was brought at the March Administration Committee meeting.

“This just strikes me as a stunt and very little more,” Moderow said.

The resolution describes concern for the federal and state response to the arrival of migrants at the southern border.

The text lays out why the county will not support these migrants and instead pledges to prioritize funding for legal residents in need, such as senior citizens.

Moderow takes issue with the proposal, especially in light of the board leadership’s intent to sell the county’s publicly-funded nursing facility.

“The same people that are putting forth this declaration of a non-sanctuary county are the same people trying to undermine and close our county-run nursing facility,” Moderow said. “So, frankly, I think that particular part is nothing but some fancy words and hypocrisy.”

He adds the resolution is also a bit premature, since no buses have arrived transporting migrants to the county.

“The situation hasn't actually been brought up,” Moderow said. “This is all theoretical. And so, to definitively say that even at that point, we are we are not going to participate, that's lacking in compassion.”

The number of migrants who have settled in Stephenson County over the last year is uncertain. The county's overall population has gone down nearly 10% since the 2010 U.S. Census.

County Board member Steve Fricke, in contrast, favors the resolution and recognizes the county may not be a go-to destination.

“There's not a lot here as far as housing, as far as potential jobs, those sorts of things that would go along with that,” Fricke said. “And so, the committee's thought was let's make sure that we are ahead of the situation rather than dealing with it when we're not prepared.”

Fricke said politics isn’t at play in the resolution. Instead, he said, “It's the awareness of our situation as a county. That's why this resolution is before the board.”

The resolution also calls for state legislators to repeal the Illinois Trust Act. The law, passed in 2017 under then Republican Governor Bruce Rauner, prohibits local law enforcement from coordinating with federal immigration officers, unless a judge has signed a warrant.

State Sen. Andrew Chesney (R-Freeport) is a sponsor of a bill to repeal that law, though it hasn’t received much support and isn’t likely to pass in a Democratic-majority General Assembly.

Fricke said it wasn’t clear to him what the motive was for such language in the resolution but would favor its removal.

WNIJ made multiple attempts to contact the County Board member who authored the resolution, Larry Jogerst, for comment and was unable to reach him.

The full board is expected to consider the resolution on Thursday.

Here’s the resolution language.

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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.