Bureau County Board declares ‘non-sanctuary’ to migrants with 11-6 vote, citing limited resources

Board vows to ‘rededicate’ itself to its residents in need in resolution

The Bureau County Board prepares for its Tuesday, Feb. 13, 2024, meeting. The majority of the board voted in favor of non-sanctuary status for migrants during the meeting.

The majority of the Bureau County Board voted Tuesday in favor of declaring the county as a nonsanctuary county to migrants, pledging instead to rededicate its “limited resources” to its residents.

As a matter of practice, however, if a bus of migrants en route to Chicago were to drop off migrants in Bureau County, the county’s emergency management agency has a plan in place with nonprofit organizations to feed and shelter the migrants until transportation could be chartered to Chicago.

The board voted 11-6 in favor of the nonsanctuary resolution, which highlighted rededication to “seniors, families living below the poverty level, veterans, homeless and all those in need of social services already here in Bureau County legally.”

The vote was split, with Republicans on the board voting in favor of the nonsanctuary resolution and Democrats voting against it.

Board members voting in favor of the nonsanctuary resolution were Dale Anderson, R-Tiskilwa; Keith Cain, R-Princeton; Jason Floyd, R-Sheffield; Sandy Hoose, R-Seatonville; Marsha Lilley, R-Princeton; Lizabeth Novotny, R-Princeton; Kerwin Paris, R-La Moille; Connie Stetson, R-Neponset; Kristi Warren, R-Princeton; Derek Whited, R-Princeton; and Marshann Entwhistle, R-Princeton.

Board members voting against the nonsanctuary resolution were Dave Argubright, D-Spring Valley; John Baracani, D-Spring Valley; Tom Dobrich, D-DePue; Deb Freeney, D-Dalzell; Mary Jane Marini, D-Spring Valley; and Robert McCook, D-Cherry.

An ordinance establishing a system for transportation drop-off in Bureau County was tabled after a 13-4 vote. The ordinance seeks to establish rules for buses dropping off large numbers of individuals, including possible vehicle impoundment and fines for violators.

Before the vote, the Bureau County Farm Bureau and Illinois Association of County Board Members said they had concerns about unintended consequences as a result of language in the ordinance, as well as liability issues.

The ordinance will move to the county’s laws committee for further review with the intent of bringing it back to the full board for a future vote, Entwhistle said.

Two Bureau County residents spoke Tuesday before the County Board voted on the resolutions, sharing differing opinions of the nonsanctuary resolution that passed.

Jani Wells said she believes in being a nation inviting immigrants who seek temporary work, asylum or permanent U.S. citizenship if they do so legally, but she believes too many migrants are coming into the U.S., without the country doing any proper vetting of them.

She said this has led to chaos.

“Chaos is what happens when there is no law and order, and people get hurt,” she said. “That is the same reason we must obey laws, so that we do not have chaos, but it’s too late for that. The only thing we can do as a county is pass this resolution and ordinance to try and keep some kind of order in our county. We don’t have the resources to handle such influx of people – whether they are good or bad, it doesn’t matter – because we are not equipped to handle so many.”

Bureau County resident and county Democratic chairman Rick Wilkin spoke before the board’s vote, telling the board “words matter” and labeling the vote as political agenda.

“The words that you choose to use as a board in any resolution or ordinance send a message to the residents of Bureau County about what is official policy,” Wilkin said. “If you choose to use words like ‘illegal’ and ‘nonsanctuary,’ the message you are sending is that it is OK to treat other human beings as less than – as ‘other,’ as ‘don’t belong.’ And when we allow ourselves to label fellow humans as ‘other’ or ‘don’t belong,’ we send the message that it is OK to be unkind to them.”

Wilkin encouraged the board the EMA’s plan was all that was necessary.

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 Bureau County or neighboring La Salle County to the east.