City Council hears concerns from protest over Ann Arbor's status as a sanctuary city

Monday, February 6, 2017 - 10:20pm

Ann Arbor residents show support for making Ann Arbor a sanctuary city in City Council Chambers on Monday.

Ann Arbor residents show support for making Ann Arbor a sanctuary city in City Council Chambers on Monday. Buy this photo
Aaron Baker/Daily

A group of about 50 people demonstrated outside the City Council chambers before the meeting Tuesday, in the hopes of convincing the council to adopt a resolution declaring Ann Arbor a sanctuary city with chants of “No ICE! No raids! Immigrants are here to stay!”

The group’s protest was in response to an executive order recently signed by President Donald Trump, whose stated intent was “enhancing public safety in the interior of the United States.”

The order, signed Jan. 25, ensures that "sanctuary jurisdictions" — cities, townships or universities that refuse to assist federal immigration authorities in identifying and detaining undocumented immigrants — are not eligible to receive federal grants, "except as deemed necessary for law enforcement purposes."

A resolution eventually passed unanimously to enthusiastic applause from protesters and residents in attendance, effectively making Ann Arbor one. However, this version didn't contain the words “sanctuary city” or any references to definitive protective policies. According to Councilmember Jack Eaton (D–Ward 4), the term “sanctuary city” does not have legitimate legal meaning.

The resolution did request that the city attorney and city administrator to review the order.

(The) City Attorney is directed to research 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 resolution reads.

Before the resolution was passed, the council discussed how local officials should interact with federal officers, with fears of losing funding. Councilmember Chuck Warpehoski (D–Ward 5) proposed an amendment declaring the Council's opposition to House Bill 4105.

House Bill 4105 was introduced to the Michigan state legislature on Jan. 26 by state Rep. Pamela Hornberger (R–Pinckney) and intended to prohibit local governments from enacting policies that limit local officials from cooperating with federal immigration officials. The amendment, which passed by a 10-1 vote, was opposed only by Councilmember Jane Lumm (I–Ward 2), who expressed fears of losing state or local funding.

According to City Administrator Howard Lazarus, however, the amendment doesn't jeopardize any state or federal funds the city of Ann Arbor currently receives.

Nothing that we do requires us to enforce federal immigration laws,” he said in regards to Warpehoski’s amendment. “That does not put us at any risk right now.”

Ann Arbor resident Roger Kuhlman opposed the order, saying the “hysteria” about the executive order doesn't help America, but “incites public hate.”

“It really bothers me when I hear local liberal Democratic politicians say that we must stand with and support the illegal alien community and possibly establish a sanctuary city here for criminal illegal aliens,” he said. “I really don't understand that. Do you want to bring people in like the illegal alien thug out in San Francisco who murdered Kate Steinle? Do you want to reward illegal aliens for knowingly and willingly breaking many U.S. laws?”

Kuhlman was referring to the accidental 2015 fatal shooting of Kathryn Steinle by Francisco Sanchez, who had been deported from the United States five times prior to the shooting.

Ann Arbor resident Julie Quiroz expressed to the council her wish that the city take action that is more than just symbolic.

“To keep us safe, we need to evolve our local policies to make our cities real sanctuaries for all residents, not cancel them because of the illegitimate president's latest actions,” she said. “That means a commitment to separating police from federal immigration enforcement, and addressing the policing that funnels Black and other residents to jail and places criminal charges on immigrant residents.”

Councilmember Sumi Kailasapathy (D–Ward 1), addressing Quiroz's concerns, assured residents the resolution was the first step of many the city would be taking.

“I just want to make sure that all of you are aware of the fact that the resolution that we're bringing forward today is just the first step toward additional steps that at least a couple of us are seriously thinking of doing,” she said. “At the national level, it has been really hard for all of us the last three weeks. But the kind of input that we have got from you, that makes me feel that we will survive as a community.”