To the Editor:
Welcoming Western Counties calls on DeKalb County and city officials, especially law enforcement agencies, to reaffirm publicly their commitment to public safety by refusing to participate in actions that are the responsibility of the federal government.
On June 1, members of Welcoming Western Counties Solidarity & Sanctuary Coalition witnessed federal immigration authorities, including Homeland Security and Immigration and Customs Enforcement, assisted by local law enforcement, raid a business in Cortland.
The court warrant they provided did not include several workers who were taken into custody and who were not wanted for committing a crime.
Rumors of ICE activities in DeKalb, Sycamore and elsewhere made their way through social media. The reaction was amplified by the news from the week before of a campaign by ICE in 37 communities in the Chicago area, including detentions as close as St. Charles.
The result was widespread fear and mistrust of both employers and police. Some employees did not show up for work, and some restaurants closed temporarily. The families of those detained, the business community and the community at large all suffer from such events.
ICE, charged with enforcing national immigration policy, cannot legally enter a home or the private area of a business without a warrant signed by a judge or the permission of the owner. The law protects people from government actions that may be harmful to themselves, their family or their business. Welcoming Western Counties is sponsoring Know Your Rights workshops for local residents and business owners. Anyone wanting information can consult our Facebook page (welcomingwesterncounties).
These raids cause distrust of local police, especially if they participate in some fashion. Community members, whether documented or undocumented, often are less willing to cooperate with the police, serve as witnesses or report crimes. Everyone becomes less safe as a result of ICE raids and the fear they engender. When Welcoming Western Counties pushed for a local ordinance to specify the ways in which DeKalb is committed to being a welcoming city, some argued that we were trying to solve a problem that did not exist, but no one can claim that anymore.
Welcoming Western Counties is an organization of local community organizations, churches, and individuals working to make all members of the community feel welcome and safe. For information, email firstname.lastname@example.org.