Bureau County passes ordinance to curb unscheduled drop-offs, including migrants

Ordinance allows sheriff’s office to impound, fine bus companies violating rules

The Bureau County Courthouse, built in 1937, is at 700 S. Main St. in Princeton.

The Bureau County Board passed an ordinance Tuesday that gives the sheriff’s office the ability to impound a bus or fine any company that makes an unscheduled drop-off of individuals outside of a town’s limits within the county.

The board passed the resolution 10-5, which is a response to migrants that 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 sanctuary locations such as Chicago, The Associated Press has reported. None of these buses have arrived in Bureau County, officials said Tuesday.

Board member Sandy Hoos, R-Seatonville, said she’s been working on the ordinance since January, calling it a proactive measure in the event a bus were to make an unscheduled drop-off.

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

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

Marshann Entwhistle, R-Princeton, abstained.

The ordinance requires the owner, operator or driver of any vehicle making a drop-off of individuals to file an application with the county administrator at least five days before the disembarking date. The application will collect information on those organizing the drop-off, designate locations where drop-offs may occur, limit drop-offs to occur from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday, and suggest organizers give a care plan for food and shelter of individuals, among other particulars.

The ordinance can be found in full online at bureaucounty-il.gov/county-board by clicking on “Meeting Minutes and Agendas,” selecting July 9 and then clicking on the resolution.

The ordinance also said any vehicle in violation may be towed at the expense of its owner, and operators, owners and/or drivers may be fined up to $1,000 for not following the rules.

The ordinance said the county “cannot safely and effectively address a sudden and unexpected arrival of these individuals in need of assistance without careful planning and resources.”

Along with a few residents who spoke against immigration and the effect it is having in Illinois, Bureau County resident and county Democratic Chairman Rick Wilkin discouraged the board from voting in favor of the ordinance, noting his belief that local governments should not get involved with enforcing federal immigration. He said passing an ordinance could open the board to lawsuits.

Hoos warned that the board not be complacent in setting policy on the issue, believing constituents want assurance that the County Board has a plan to keep them safe. She said other local governments have passed similar ordinances and have not faced liability. She said the ordinance was crafted in a manner that is not discriminatory to migrants.

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