Lee County Board declares county a ‘nonsanctuary county’

Resolution passed unanimously, but its authors say it ‘carries no weight’ and is ‘unenforceable’

Lee County Board

DIXONLee County Board members unanimously declared the county a “nonsanctuary county” at the board’s Feb. 22 meeting, backing a local resolution to not use taxpayer money for what they called the “immigration crisis.”

“Lee County, by declaring itself a non-sanctuary county, pledges and dedicates its limited resources to its residents in need, and absent emergency circumstances, Lee County will not provide taxpayer funded services or dollars towards the immigration crisis,” part of the resolution reads.

The resolution itself “carries no weight” and is “totally unenforceable,” said Board member Jack Skrogstad, who helped prepare the document.

“It’s basically, Lee County as a governing body, is saying to the rest of Illinois, ‘We are not a sanctuary county like the Chicago area,’” Skrogstad said. “We want county funds that we receive from taxpayers to support the citizens of Lee County, and we can barely do that.”

Parts of the resolution were based off similar resolutions passed elsewhere, Board member Angie Shippert said.

At the Jan. 18 Lee County Board meeting, Shippert said she had heard from constituents concerned with the influx of illegal immigrants and requested the matter be sent to the Public Safety and Court Services Committee for consideration. She is part of that committee and helped draft the resolution.

“It’s just really unfortunate the safety crisis that these people are in as they cross the border, and it’s unfortunate that our federal government is basically putting them at risk,” Shippert said in a Feb. 23 phone interview with Shaw Local News Network.

The Lee County Board’s resolution is among the latest in a trend seen throughout northern Illinois municipalities that have passed laws regulating local response to the ongoing migrant crisis. Since December, towns and cities in DeKalb, Kane, McHenry, La Salle and Will counties, among others, have taken up resolutions or ordinances meant to control when, or how, migrants arrive in their communities.

Unlike Lee County Board’s response, however, some neighboring communities have passed local regulations meant to specifically target transportation of migrants to communities that aren’t Chicago. Proponents of some such ordinances have said the rules are meant to be proactive, a chance to ensure safe transportation for those likely unfamiliar with the Midwest. Opponents, though, have called some ordinances “unwelcoming,” saying they fear setting a precedent for how communities treat immigrants.

Skrogstad said he believes legislation soon will come that will tell county officials they must handle the flow of immigrants a certain way in order to assist the Chicago area.

“The reason why I feel this way is because our Legislature have already told every county in Illinois how to handle our solar and wind projects,” he said, referring to a bill signed in 2023 that set statewide standards for wind and solar farm siting.

Prior to the Lee County vote, three members of the public – including a former Lee County Board member – spoke in favor of the resolution.

“I hope you can see that this is a benefit to Lee County and to all the county residents,” former Board member Marilyn Shippert said. “I urge you to vote in favor of this resolution, which I would do if I were in your place.”

Marilyn Shippert is the aunt of Angie Shippert’s husband.

Bradford Township Supervisor Cindy Knight commended County Board members for considering the “nonsanctuary county” resolution.

“We are a nation of laws, and welcome those willing to follow the laws and the process,” Knight said. “What is happening now is none of these things. It is since the federal and state government are not willing to protect its citizens and use the resources for its productive tax-paying citizens, many of whom are in real need, that I implore you, our last line of defense, so to speak, … to vote ‘yes’ on this resolution.”

It is legal under federal law for migrants seeking asylum to be allowed in the U.S. while their residency status is considered. Since 2022, more than 33,000 migrants, mostly from Venezuela, have arrived in Chicago, The Associated Press reported in January. In recent months, Chicago city leaders have said they no longer can properly meet the needs of such large influxes of people, and enforced strict rules on how and when migrants can arrive in the city. Since then, some surrounding suburban communities have reported migrant arrivals in town, prompting municipalities to take up the issue in local governance.

Brett Nicklaus said he was ecstatic when he learned of the resolution being considered. He thanked the County Board for “standing up for the citizens that elected” them.

“Our country is open to immigrants, but there’s rules and there’s a law. There’s a way to become a legal citizen,” Nicklaus said. “All we want is people to follow that. Protect Lee County, protect the beautiful county that we have, protect the people, and from the bottom of my heart, I thank you guys for bringing this resolution.”

The resolution acknowledges and lists restrictions put in place by the 2017 TRUST Act. The TRUST Act “generally prohibits local law enforcement in Illinois from participating in immigration enforcement,” according to the Illinois Attorney General’s Office website.

Editor’s Note: This article has been updated to correct Brett Nicklaus’ name. — Feb. 26, 2024

Alexa Zoellner

Alexa Zoellner

Alexa Zoellner reports on Lee, Ogle and Whiteside counties for Shaw Media out of the Dixon office. Previously, she worked for the Record-Eagle in Traverse City, Michigan, and the Daily Jefferson County Union in Fort Atkinson, Wisconsin.