Missouri county tables resolution opposing Latino immigrants from coming to region
The St. Charles County Council decided not to act yet on a resolution condemning the International Institute’s efforts to bring Latin Americans to the region. The resolution opposes "the importation of illegal immigrants," but Institute leaders said people helped by their program are in the country legally.
St. Charles County Council members Monday discussed but did not vote on a resolution criticizing a program resettling Latin American immigrants in the St. Louis region.
Supporters of the resolution tabled the measure because two members were absent.
Councilwoman Barbara Schneider said the resolution was misguided since the immigrants are in the country legally.
“I don’t think this resolution accomplishes anything positive. I don’t see its purpose,” she said. “The county council has no control over these matters.”
Backers of the resolution said that they don’t trust the Biden administration to run immigration programs.
“It’s not about whether they’re contributing to society, it’s about whether they’re legally entering the country,” said Councilman Joe Brazil.
The resolution is purely symbolic, but it still attracted opposition from officials with the International Institute and the region’s Hispanic Chamber of Commerce.
The St. Charles County Council will consider a resolution Monday that opposes the St. Louis-based International Institute’s plan to bring Latin American immigrants to the region to boost the region’s population and workforce.
Some council members say publicity of the program prompted them to propose the resolution.
“The St. Charles County Council is strongly opposed to the importation of illegal immigrants into the region based on current federal and state statutes that make their unlawful entry into the United States a criminal offense,” wrote resolution sponsors Matt Swanson, Joe Brazil, Dave Hammond and Tim Baker.
“It affects St. Charles County, we’re your neighbors,” Brazil said in an interview. “And so you always should be conscious of your neighbors. And they're not, but that's just typical St. Louis [and] St. Louis County.”
But International Institute President and CEO Arrey Obenson said the immigrants the organization plans to help are here legally. Federal officials have allowed them to enter the country through sponsorships and under parole, a process which allows immigrants to come into the country for a temporary period. They have a status similar to Ukrainian refugees who also have come to St. Louis, St. Louis County and St. Charles County.
Last year, the Biden Administration extended the parole program to immigrants from Cuba, Venezuela, Haiti and Nicaragua with U.S. sponsors, giving them permission to live and work in the country for two years. The immigrants could be permitted to stay in the country longer if they receive another designation, such as refugee status, or if they get their parole extended.
“The Ukrainians and the Latinos are both parolees, privately sponsored,” Obsenson said. “Why does ... St. Charles respond in one way for the Latinos, and another way for the Ukrainians?"
“These sponsors are picking and choosing who lives in an American community — in an American city,” he said of the St. Charles County resolution.
Federal officials said extending parole to those from the four Latin-American countries encourages more migrants to come to the United States legally. But, Brazil said he does not think the federal government’s program is legitimate.
“I don’t believe they’re vetting them properly,” he said. “I believe the Biden administration is completely incompetent.”
Republican attorneys general from 20 states, including Missouri, have sued to shut down the parole program, claiming the program was designed to apply to individual cases, not large-scale numbers of people.
The resolution, if passed, will not have any legal teeth, but is meant to serve as a position statement for the council, Brazil said.
St. County Executive Steve Ehlmann said in a statement the proposal “is not a law, just a suggestion,” but that he “looks forward to hearing discussion on this important issue.”
Officials from the St. Louis Mayor Tishaura Jones’ office have not had direct conversations with the International Institute about welcoming more migrants from Chicago, a spokesman from the mayor’s office said in a statement. But, “the city of St. Louis has had a longstanding cooperative relationship with the International Institute to welcome immigrants and refugees from all over the world,” the spokesman said. “We look forward to continuing our strong relationship with the International Institute.”
The city recently announced Gilberto Pinela as the first director of the St. Louis Office of New Americans, "to streamline resources to welcome immigrants and refugees" into the city.
Obenson said political moves, like the resolution before the St. Charles County Council, ultimately hurt efforts to encourage people to stay in the region.
“Our young people that come to the wonderful universities that we have here leave because of resolutions like this,” he said. “What does this say to a young Latino person who’s going to Lindenwood University in St. Charles?” he said, “What does that say to him?”
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