City holds mayoral debate

By Clarissa Hinshaw

DeKALB — With the April 4 DeKalb consolidated election fast approaching, mayoral candidates participated in an audience-packed debate where they discussed issues, including local immigration policy.

The debate, which was held 6:30 Thursday at the DeKalb Municipal Building, 200 S. Fourth St., featured mayor John Rey and mayoral candidates Jerry Smith, Michael Embrey and Misty Haji-Sheikh.

Candidates discussed a variety of issues facing DeKalb and NIU, including the financing of the Egyptian Theatre, 135 N. Second St., relations between city council and the city manager, immigration status-checking when residents are pulled over, and relationships with small businesses.

Rey presented the idea that he will listen to the people and take action if reelected. Rey briefly mentioned how state and federal laws affect DeKalb. Smith, a 1966 NIU alumnus, focused on DeKalb’s positive features such as the community events and friendly people and how a change in leadership could benefit the city.

“We had great weather last weekend and a wonderful way for this mayoral candidate to capture the positive vibes that I found in the community,” Smith said. “I heard many comments about how good DeKalb has been for the folks who live here. They were also very aware that a leadership change would be a healthy thing for our city.”

Haji-Sheikh, who serves on the county board and has served on multiple committees including the Health and Human Services Committee, spoke about how she is not afraid to make budget cuts but wants to celebrate DeKalb and NIU. Embrey, a former NIU band leader, talked about how it is important to attract visitors and promote a positive image of DeKalb. He said his great love for DeKalb is what inspired these initiatives.

“I fell in love with this town [and] chose to stay here after I left the university,” Embrey said. “We need to have a positive image of the city. If we don’t, people aren’t going to come.”

The candidates had varying opinions related to checking the immigration status of individuals who commit crimes, a topic that has gained national attention since President Donald Trump has enforced new undocumented immigration policies, including increased power within the Department of Homeland Security “to arrest, detain and deport undocumented immigrants and legal immigrants with criminal records,” according to a Feb. 21 Politico article.

Rey said immigration status should not be checked when an individual commits a minor offense. Smith said it should depend on the nature of the crime and that it may be appropriate for repeat offenses, and Haji-Sheikh said status should not be checked because it wastes too much time and money. Embrey said doing so insinuates racial profiling.

“When we stop somebody for a minor offense to look at their driver’s license and see that their license is state-issued, you can’t profile because of a name that’s not ‘normal’ and [assume] ‘maybe you’re a Mexican immigrant,’” Embrey said. “You can’t do that. It’s actually against the law. Profiling is a very big concern.”

Clarissa Hinshaw is a staff writer. She can be reached at [email protected].