Members of the Southern Illinois Immigrant Rights Project addressed Jackson County officials about the need for immigrants to feel welcome all through the county.
Cities across the nation have been pushing for resolutions to create safe and welcoming communities for immigrants and their families. Carbondale passed such a resolution in April. The Rights Project was a driving force behind its passing.
Jess Jobe with the Project said this resolution came about with wanting to set a community standard and make immigrants feel safe and welcome in the local community regardless of citizenship or legal status. Once the resolution was passed in Carbondale, the Rights Project began to think bigger for what it could help accomplish.
“The best way to communicate our community standard is through our elected officials,” Jobe said. “This is happening a lot at the city level, and it is happening in Carbondale, but it hasn’t happened a lot yet at the county level and Jackson County is a leader on this which is something to be proud of.”
The Rights Project helps immigrants in the local area know their legal rights and keep them informed on important changes in the community that might affect them.
The resolution aims to reduce fear in the immigrant community by passing a policy seeking to let them know they are welcome. While it is not a legally binding document, if passed by the Jackson County Board, it would be an official statement that says the county does not make questioning the immigration status of a resident a priority unless ordered by state or federal law or a court order.
Becca Tally with the Project was involved with drafting the resolution. She said one of the goals with it was to change the narrative of what people imagine when it comes to undocumented immigrants.
“There are many immigrants that are not bad people getting caught up in the system so we want to make sure people know what their rights are, and understand immigration enforcement priorities in the area and let immigrants know their local government is behind them so they feel safe going to the police or the hospital without wondering if someone is going to question their legal status,” Tally said.
Attorney Jim Chapman says one of the things unique to Southern Illinois is a unity and awareness of what people in surrounding areas are doing.
“Here, I find word gets around, the word will get out on this that there are a group of people who will fight for the rights of everybody,” Chapman said. “No matter what happens next week at the board meeting, this will help the group let people know we are here, and we are here to stay.”
The legislative committee of the Jackson County Board voted to move the resolution forward to the full County Board for review. The meeting will happen at 6 p.m. on Tuesday in the Jackson County Courthouse.