SHOREWOOD - Concerned about President Donald Trump's rhetoric about undocumented immigrants, a Shorewood activist group collaborated with Shorewood village officials to craft legislation protecting the rights of undocumented immigrants and other minority groups.
A resolution approved by Shorewood trustees on Monday, July 10 reaffirms the village's commitment "to stand tall and proud with those who are vilified and persecuted, to practice moral justice, embrace the dignity of others, and to resist the temptation to bend to demagogical impulses that violate international norms of decency, respect, and humanity,” according to the resolution.
More specifically, the resolution promises Shorewood will not adopt or condone public policy, real estate practices or policing practices that discriminate or deny services or benefits to individuals based on their race, religion, national origin, ethnicity, immigration status, sexual orientation, sexual or gender identity or disability.
The resolution promises Shorewood will take appropriate action "to investigate or cause to be investigated complaints that any businesses, institutions or other entities knowingly or unlawfully discriminated or denied services to individuals" based on the above factors.
The resolution also promises the village will comply with its legal duties under applicable Immigration and Customs Enforcement law, but shall not carry out the work of ICE or Customs and Border Patrol as the primary agencies for immigration enforcement.
The Shorewood Police Department's internal policies already advise officers not to detain a person for a civil violation of federal immigration law. The policies also state no individual should be held based solely on a federal immigration detainer unless the person has been charged with a federal crime or the detainer is accompanied by a warrant, affidavit of probable cause or removal order.
'Immigration status' debate
Village Attorney Nathan Bayer recommended Shorewood trustees remove "immigration status" as a protected class from several provisions of the ordinance, arguing that it would create a new protected class including individuals who have entered the country in violation of federal law. Undocumented immigrants are not a protected class under Wisconsin law, the federal Civil Rights Act or the federal Fair Housing Act.
Carlos Pastrana, a Shorewood attorney representing Shorewood Solidarity Network, urged the board to keep the language about immigration status.
"We don't live in normal times nowadays. We are all aware of how important this is to protect immigrants that live, work or drive through our community," Pastrana said. "That couldn't be a more American principle, in our opinion. That couldn't be a more Shorewood principle, in our opinion."
The village board rejected Bayer's advice, opting to take a stronger stance protecting undocumented immigrants.
"The resolution as stated with the wording of immigration status … does reflect what I and the community would like to see," said Village President Guy Johnson.
The resolution marks an important step for Shorewood, said Christine Neumann-Ortiz, a Shorewood resident who is also the executive director of immigrants right group Voces de la Frontera.
"We're under an administration that is really fundamentally attacking the Constitutional rights that we stand for around protecting people because of their religion, because of their ethnicity and it has now put a target on everyone who is undocumented," she said. "There are cities and municipalities standing up across the country, and I'm proud to say Shorewood is one of them."
The Shorewood Solidarity Network had originally proposed an ordinance "establishing a fair and welcoming village to all people and restricting village officials' engagement with all people based on their immigration status."
The proposed ordinance would have restricted the village from assisting with the enforcement of federal immigration laws. The ordinance also required Shorewood officials to not allow ICE or Customs and Border Protection agents to access Shorewood facilities or any person in Shorewood custody.
Bayer raised several concerns with that ordinance, including a section that prohibited Shorewood officers from releasing data or information to ICE or CBP, essentially making Shorewood a type of sanctuary city.
The U.S. Justice Department has indicated that municipalities passing similar sanctuary policies are in violation of federal law.
The Trump administration's ability to cut off federal funding from municipalities that limit cooperation with immigration enforcement is being actively litigated, Bayer said.
In April, a federal judge in California issued a temporary restraining order that stopped the White House from unilaterally rescinding all federal funding from these municipalities without the consent of Congress. However, the decision does not keep the administration from enforcing existing federal grant requirements that are contingent upon compliance with federal law.
In April, the U.S. Justice Department sent a letter to Milwaukee County Executive Chris Abele warning that a similar sanctuary policy could cost the county federal funding. The resolution approved by the county board weeks earlier had, among other things, opposed the enforcement of certain federal immigration laws, including an ICE program that asks local police and sheriff's offices to help enforce laws governing undocumented immigrants.
After hearing Bayer's concerns with the ordinance, the Shorewood Solidarity Network agreed to work with village officials on a resolution, which unlike an ordinance, is a statement of principles and not legally binding.
Village officials say they intend to work with the Shorewood Solidarity Network in the future to craft an ordinance that would have stronger legal teeth.