Lansing's Sanctuary City Fight

BY TODD HEYWOOD

Facing a backlash from conservatives and a possible legal showdown with President Donald Trump's administration, the city of Lansing has rescinded a resolution declaring itself a sanctuary city.

The reversal brings to an end weeks of contentious public meetings which featured hours of testimony for and against the move meant to assure undocumented immigrants that city officials and police would not become "de facto immigration agents," as Lansing Mayor Virg Bernero put it.

The label was adopted on a unanimous vote of the Lansing City Council of 6 to 0 April 3. Council Members At-Large Carol Wood, Kathie Dunbar, Patricia Spitzley and Judi Brown Clarke were joined by 4th Ward Councilwoman Jessica Yorko and 2nd Ward Councilwoman Tina Houghton to pass the resolution. Jody Washington, the 1st Ward Council Member, and Adam Hussain, the 3rd Ward Council Member, were absent.

The short-lived declaration died when council members rescinded their resolution the following week on April 12. The resolution to rescind the declaration passed 5 to 2. Dunbar and Houghton cast their ballots against the rescinded resolution, while Brown Clarke, Spitzley, Wood, Washington and Hussain cast their ballots in favor of the move. Yorko was absent.

While Bernero has the option to veto the resolution, he told City Pulse Newsmakers television show that he would not do so.

"To veto a symbolic resolution, which to me is a statement of will, just doesn't sit well with me," said Bernero. "To me, it's anti-Democratic. The council, albeit with all its worth, is a reflection of the people. I am and they are."

The reversal brings to an end weeks of contentious public meetings which featured hours of testimony for and against the move meant to assure undocumented immigrants that city officials and police would not become "de facto immigration agents," as Lansing Mayor Virg Bernero put it.

Council members and the state and local chambers expressed concern that the declaration had put a "spotlight" on the municipality for Trump's Jan. 25 executive order directing the Attorney General and the Secretary of Homeland Security to identify, label and potentially withhold federal dollars from "sanctuary jurisdictions."

At stake was an estimated $3 million in federal Department of Justice dollars. City officials and the chambers argued that the city could ill-afford to lose that cash, which is used to underwrite law enforcement activities.

But the removal of the label - which has no legal standing, since even the federal government has said in court filings it has no definition of a sanctuary jurisdiction - may not save the city from being placed on what the conservative Washington Times calls Trump's "Name and Shame" list. That list identifies various municipalities that are not cooperating with immigration officials.

Ironically, an executive order by Bernero, issued on April 3, may keep the spotlight on the city. Bernero's executive order - Lansing's new, official policy - is that law enforcement will not detain people based on administrative immigration warrants -- so- called retainer or detainer orders -- and will not work to enforce immigration laws alone. The executive order, which was affirmed by the April 3 City Council resolution, also prohibits Lansing officials from contacting ICE, except when a person is allegedly involved in "a serious crime."

Those policy stances have, particularly the detainer orders refusal, have landed other municipalities on the list. Ironically, the list was supposed to be published weekly, but ICE suspended its publication after only three weeks, and days after Lansing adopted its declaration.


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