La Salle County approves nonsanctuary status to deter potential migrant influx

Board votes 24-0 in favor of resolution

Members of the La Salle County Board vote on a resolution Thursday, Feb. 8, 2024, to declare La Salle County as a non-sanctuary county regarding migrants.

La Salle County is a nonsanctuary county.

On Thursday, the La Salle County Board overwhelmingly approved a resolution, modified slightly at the 11th hour, to thwart a possible influx of migrants.

I don’t think there’s one person on this board who would not help an immigrant.”

—  Jill Bernal, D-Peru

The resolution was adopted by a 24-0 vote with four Democrats voting present during the roll call. The four were David Torres of Oglesby, Mike Kasap of La Salle, and Tom Walsh and Pamela Beckett of Ottawa.

Although the resolution uses language declaring the county as nonsanctuary, it also includes a note that a humanitarian response will be applied should migrants be left in the county.

The vote came after more than a month of committee discussions with sometimes-emotional floor debate. Kasap, who previously had said that he descends from Eastern Europeans who immigrated illegally, said Thursday’s resolution sent the wrong message to those who still dream of a better life in the U.S.

“It’s not beneficial to harbor that type of attitude or that type of hate,” Kasap said.

But board members from both parties quickly disavowed any insinuation that the resolution was motivated by hate or racism.

Beth Findley Smith, R-Somonauk, said La Salle County has the means and the willingness to provide temporary aid to migrants – “There’s no hate in this resolution,” she said – but, lacking the resources to provide prolonged aid, then would transfer migrants to state-run welcome centers.

“This is a strong statement to the people of La Salle County that we will put them first and we care about their safety,” she said.

La Salle County Board member Beth Finley Smith, R-Somonauk, speaks Thursday, Feb. 8, 2024, before voting on a resolution to declare La Salle County as a non-sanctuary county regarding migrants.

Jill Bernal, D-Peru, who is married to a physician who emigrated from the Philippines, agreed that the resolution in no way precluded emergency care for migrants.

“I don’t think there’s one person on this board who would not help an immigrant,” Bernal said.

The resolution was agreed to after some last-minute changes. Tina Busch, R-Tonica, pressed for a last-minute revision that acknowledged La Salle County already has and will implement an emergency plan.

Busch further noted that a resolution was actively sought by constituents seeking “to make sure we look different from Chicago.”

Migrants have arrived in northern Illinois over the past year as Texas Republican Gov. Greg Abbott’s administration transports groups crossing the U.S.-Mexico border in Texas to Democratic-led cities such as Chicago, The Associated Press has reported.

Chicago city leaders, however, have since imposed penalties of their own on unscheduled bus drop-offs, saying the abrupt nature of the drop-offs doesn’t allow the city time to adequately prepare to house those in need.

As a result of these new rules in Chicago, a number of buses have left migrants in the Chicago suburbs. So far, no buses have arrived in La Salle County.

La Salle County Board member Tina Busch, R-Tonica, speaks Thursday, Feb. 8, 2024, before voting on a resolution to declare La Salle County as a non-sanctuary county regarding migrants.