City Council voted unanimously Tuesday to postpone an initial vote on an ordinance intended to protect Ann Arbor’s undocumented residents, citing a need to tighten exceptions originally provided in the ordinance.
The ordinance comes after an executive order signed by President Donald Trump in January providing for the removal of federal grants for “sanctuary jurisdictions,” which the order defines as jurisdictions that refuse to assist federal agencies in identifying and detaining undocumented immigrants. Additionally, implementation memos for the order released Monday expanded the federal government’s authority to allow lower jurisdictions to carry out the duties of federal immigration agencies.
At the Feb. 6 meeting of City Council, members unanimously passed a resolution directing the city administrator to review the executive order and “provide advice regarding possible options or actions the city might take to protect the rights of the city and persons within its jurisdiction.”
The ordinance proposed Tuesday would prohibit city employees from asking residents about their immigration statuses, but provides several exceptions to the prohibition. According to the ordinance, city employees would be permitted to inquire into a resident’s immigration status while assisting federal law enforcement in the investigation of a criminal or civil offense, or while processing an arrested person.
Ann Arbor resident Jessica Prozinski said the exceptions defeated the original purpose of the ordinance, opposing it on those grounds.
“The resolution, I believe, had good intentions, as far as strengthening Ann Arbor’s don’t-ask-don’t-tell policy,” she said. “This resolution, I think, has actually become problematic to the point where I think it would almost be better if it weren’t passed, because some of the exceptions in it I think are very dangerous.”
Along with several other residents at the meeting, Councilmember Jack Eaton (D–Ward 4) agreed the language of the exceptions in the ordinance needed to be revised.
“I find great substance to the objections that were raised by residents of the city,” he said. “I’ve spoken to the city attorney’s office regarding this, and in consultation with them, I will be working out a better way to describe any exception we will make for this.”
Councilmember Sumi Kailasapathy (D–Ward 1) said she understood residents’ concerns with the exceptions, but pointed out the council was balancing multiple priorities with the ordinance. She specifically noted the federal funding that goes toward public housing for the city’s low-income residents, which could be threatened by the passing of such an ordinance.
“None of us here have any doubt that the current president is a very vindictive person,” she said. “Some of you have pleaded with us, asking us why don’t we just declare ourselves a sanctuary city and then go fight it out in the courts, because it’s a just war. And I do agree with you, but the issue is we come from a middle-class perspective where we have a safety net. The people who live in public housing are not in the safety net. They don’t have any other safety net.”
Kailasapathy said the city currently receives $1.25 million per month from the federal government in public housing grants. Councilmember Zachary Ackerman (D–Ward 3) noted the funds provide housing for more than 1,300 Ann Arbor residents.