Friday, December 1, 2006

Immigration debate turns out to be a one-sided eventBy George Houde
Special to the Tribune
Published November 29, 2006

Expected fireworks over illegal immigration failed to ignite Tuesday night in Carpentersville as a debate turned into a "one-sided" affair featuring supporters of a proposal to crack down on undocumented residents and workers.

About 200 people gathered in the Lakewood School gymnasium at a forum moderated by Eileen Byrne of WLS-AM 890. Village Trustees Paul Humpfer and Judy Sigwalt, who proposed the ordinance, were half of the scheduled debate panel, but Village President Bill Sarto and Trustee Linda Ramirez Sliwinski, opponents of the measure, did not appear.

The forum, which was organized by Fox Valley Citizens for Legal Immigration, turned into a lukewarm question-and-answer session. The group supports the ordinance, which would penalize businesses that employ illegal immigrants and landlords who rent to them.

"We will probably try to do this again," said Bob Sperlazzo, chairman of the group.

Sperlazzo asked the audience if anyone wanted to speak against the ordinance, but no one stood up, disappointing some who were there.

"It was too one-sided. I was expecting more," said John Gorlewski, 20, a college student from St. Charles.

Last month, the League of Women Voters scheduled a public meeting on the issue, but the event was called off at Sarto's request.

The cancellation came on the heels of a protest by 3,000 people, nearly all of them Hispanic, outside Village Hall during an Oct. 3 board meeting. Trustees tabled the ordinance indefinitely after a raucous debate.

Within days, Fox Valley Citizens for Legal Immigration was formed. Organizers say the group has about 110 members.

Humpfer and Sigwalt, members of the group, have called for further debate in a town where Hispanics make up about 40 percent of the 37,000 residents.

Sarto said before Tuesday night's forum that the group was only seeking media attention.

"I'm not saying this isn't an important issue, but I think it's something we can't do on a local level," Sarto said. "It's a federal issue to fix broken borders."

Before voting on the ordinance, the Village Board wants to wait for legal challenges to be resolved with similar legislation in other U.S. communities, the mayor said.

Supporters have vowed to get the measure back on the agenda for a vote.

Illegal immigration is an important subject for both Carpentersville and the U.S. and ducking a discussion won't help, said Sperlazzo, chairman of the citizens group.

"We've jumped through hoops to arrange this," he said before the meeting.

Carpentersville Police Cmdr. Michael Kilbourne said the citizens group would pay for the cost of providing security for the event. The cost could be as much as $3,000, organizers said.