Chicago—A Cook County Board committee has narrowly passed a proposal to make the county a sanctuary for illegal immigrants.
The vote was 3 to 2 in committee—on a move to make Cook County a safe space for undocumented immigrants.
Even the sponsor, Commissioner Roberto Maldonado, called it symbolic, because nothing would stop federal agents from making immigration raids.
“And it is symbolic to tell the people of Cook County who happen to be undocumented that, look, we recognize that we are a county of immigrants.”
Commissioner Tony Peraica voted against the resolution. He says the County Board has no jurisdiction.
“And I believe this particular issue would create a false sense of hope in people’s minds that they can, in fact, continue to stay in an illegal capacity with impunity.”
The resolution also forbids county employees from asking people about their immigration status.
The resolution still has to go to the full board.
Despite a dissenting vote from Tony Peraica, the Republican candidate for Cook County Board president, a resolution passed a subcommittee Monday that could make the county a sanctuary for undocumented immigrants.
Modeled on legislation adopted by several large cities, including Chicago, the resolution will go before the full board after passing 3-2. It would forbid county agencies from asking about immigration status when providing services.
The co-sponsor of the resolution, Commissioner Roberto Maldonado (D-Chicago), said the measure offers symbolic support for undocumented immigrants as well as protection from real abuses.
During a brief hearing of the Law Enforcement and Corrections Committee, Maldonado cited two examples of such abuse. One was an allegation made last month that a Stroger Hospital police officer roughed up Agustin Sotomayor, 77, during an arrest and asked whether the man was in the United States legally.
The other, he said, came from the owner of Los Dos Compadres restaurant in unincorporated Franklin Park, who reported that a Cook County sheriff’s police officer checked identification of would-be patrons late last month and turned away anyone without proof of being in the United States legally.
“We are sending a moral message through our government to the undocumented that we are in support of their struggle to achieve social justice,” Maldonado said. “As we await comprehensive immigration reform, we stand with them.”
Cook County sheriff’s office spokesperson Sally Daly said the agency was unaware of the allegation against its officer until Monday. Neither Maldonado nor any citizen made a complaint, she said.
“Certainly it is concerning, but why Commissioner Maldonado would wait this long to mention it is unclear to us,” Daly said. “If it’s true, we take it seriously, and we will conduct an investigation.”
Joining Maldonado in support of the resolution were Commissioners Joseph Mario Moreno (D-Chicago), a co-sponsor, and Mike Quigley (D-Chicago).
In a long preface to his dissent, Peraica criticized the resolution as a “feel-good piece of legislation” that violated the Constitution because county government cannot make immigration law.
“The proper channel for this is the United States Congress and the United States Senate,” he said. “We would be setting a dangerous precedent if we embarked down that road.”
Commissioner Jerry Butler (D-Chicago) joined the dissent, saying that anyone seeking services at a county health facility should be required to answer basic questions about where they live or have lived.
Maldonado said the issue will go before the full board sometime after Wednesday’s scheduled meeting.