St. Charles County Council tables resolution decrying bringing Latin Americans to region
Updated at 8:45 p.m. Nov. 13 with council discussion
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 International Institute of St. Louis’ plan to bring Latin American immigrants from Chicago to the region to boost the population and workforce.
Some council members say publicity about 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.”
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 through sponsorships and under parole, a process that allows immigrants to be in the country for a temporary period. They have a status similar to that of Ukrainian refugees who 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 have 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 resolution.
Federal officials said extending parole to those from the four Latin American countries encourages 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.”
The resolution, if passed, will not have legal teeth but is meant to serve as a position statement for the council, Brazil said.
St. Charles County Executive Steve Ehlmann said in a statement that the proposal “is not a law, just a suggestion” and that he “looks forward to hearing discussion on this important issue.”
Representatives of 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. “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 the appointment of Gilberto Pinela as the first director of the Office of New Americans "to streamline resources to welcome immigrants and refugees" to St. Louis.
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?”
Arrey Obenson and Karlos Ramirez, vice president of Latino Outreach for the International Institute, joined "St. Louis on the Air" on November 15, 2023 to discuss plans to welcome Latin American immigrants to St. Louis. They also talked about how the St. Charles County proposal hurts their efforts at creating a welcoming region. Listen to the conversation on Apple Podcast, Spotify, Google Podcast or Stitcher or by clicking the play button below.