‘Welcoming Proclamation’ draws support and crowd at City Council

By Lindsey Salvatelli

Mayor Jerry Smith signed a proclamation during Monday’s City Council meeting as a sign of the city’s commitment to diversity and support of immigrant communities.

The Welcoming Proclamation is a vision of inclusiveness that focuses on guaranteeing all individuals dignity and respect regardless of their immigration status, religion or ethnicity.

The proclamation also notes the DeKalb Police Department will not arrest individuals based solely on their immigration status because “federal authorities have the primary responsibility to enforce immigration laws.”

Larry Apperson, Human Relations Commission chairperson, said grassroots groups around the country have come forward in support of immigrants within their communities despite the talks occurring in Washington D.C. that focus on reforming the Deferred Actions for Childhood Arrivals policy.

He said members of Dream Action NIU and Welcoming Western Counties, a solidarity and sanctuary coalition, recently attended three meetings to provide commission members with stories of individuals in the community who have fear and anxiety about their interactions within DeKalb.

“It became very clear to the HRC that there was a level of concern from our immigrant population that necessitated a clear statement that DeKalb is welcoming all immigrants,” Apperson said.

Stories about individuals who fear leaving their homes or getting their driver’s license made it clear to the Human Relations Commission there was a need for a clear message welcoming such residents, Apperson said.

Dana Yurak, Welcoming Western Counties member, thanked council members and chief of police Gene Lowery for supporting people regardless of their national origin and taking a step toward alleviating some of the fears immigrants have.

“As a human being, I feel like the fear that has been engendered recently for our immigrant community is something that I don’t feel comfortable living with,” Yurak said.