April 12 2017 09:16 AM

Advocates speak out as City Council prepares to reverse itself

City and community leaders held a press conference at City Hall this morning, speaking out against against the effort to undo the sanctuary city declaration that the Lansing City Council passed last week.
Ty Forquer/City Pulse

WEDNESDAY, April 12 — Leaders and supporters of the sanctuary city movement spoke out this morning against the effort to undo the sanctuary city declaration that the Lansing City Council passed last week.

The Council will hold a special meeting at 6:30 tonight on the 10th floor of City Hall to reconsider the resolution, which passed unanimously, 6-0, on April 3. Two Councilwomen, Carol Wood and Judi Brown Clarke, requested a special meeting to recall the resolution.

“It is shameful after a unanimous vote last week to rescind their vote,” said Councilwoman Kathie Dunbar, the leading voice on the Council for sanctuary city status.

“They’ve decided they didn’t know what they voted for,” she added, or they bowed to “external pressures.” She referred directly to a letter from the Lansing and Michigan chambers of commerce last week calling on the Council to reconsider.

Several speakers said that reducing the city from sanctuary city to welcoming city status, as is the goal tonight, will not mean Lansing is no longer a sanctuary city. They said an executive order issued by Mayor Virg Bernero last week establishes Lansing as a sanctuary city.

“City Council changed nothing in practice,” said Ed Montemayor, a legal immigrant from Mexico. “They only called Lansing what it is.”

But it sent an important message, said Emily Dievendorf, president of the gay rights group Lansing Association for Human Rights.

“The resolution shows we are proud of our values and that we stand by what we have done for all of our citizens and the most vulnerable.”

Dievendorf said opponents’ concerns that Lansing will lose federal funding as a result of becoming a sanctuary city are unfounded. President Donald Trump signed an executive order on Jan. 25 saying his administration will cut off federal funds to sanctuary jurisdictions if they fail to cooperate with federal authorities in detaining illegal immigrants. Bernero’s order instructs city employees not to act as an arm of the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement Office except under court order.

“The executive order is legally defensible in every way,” she said, “We consulted with the best civil rights and immigration attorneys.”

She said sanctuary cities “have won every time” in court in defending their right not to cooperate with ICE.

Added Dunbar: “The risk here is not that we are going to lose money” by being a sanctuary city. The risk is you will losing money” by violating the constitutional rights of individuals the city detains by cooperating with ICE.