Columbus Mayor Announces Support For Undocumented Residents

Jan 30, 2017

As protests against President Trump's refugee ban and immigration freeze continue across the country, the city of Columbus announced it will look to step up protections of undocumented residents by studying "sanctuary cities" as examples.

In a press conference Monday afternoon, Mayor Andrew Ginther and the Columbus City Council announced plans to research how city laws could better support and protect undocumented residents and DACA recipients. This week, Ginther will issue an executive order supporting the continued resettlement of refugees to Columbus.

Council member Elizabeth Brown also proposed a legal defense fund to help DACA students, refugees trying to reunite with their families and undocumented residents to fight deportation cases.

WOSU's Esther Honig reports that Zach Klein said the city will examine so-called "sanctuary cities" around the country to see what further actions they can take, and if it should adopt the label itself.

President Trump signed an executive order last week threatening to revoke federal funding from sanctuary cities, but it's not clear which counties qualify.

While the policies of sanctuary cities vary, the term tends to refer to cities that ban immigration raids and refuse to supply immigration status information with Immigration Customs and Enforcement. That is a violation of federal law, but there's not much the government can do to require the latter.

In Ohio, Oberlin, Lorain, and Dayton could all be affected by Trump's order. Columbus, however, does supply immigration status information of arrested people.

Some of the policies announced by Ginther are ones that Columbus already employs.

"We will not arrest, detain or investigate anyone for immigration violations unless a warrant or criminal violation was observed," Ginther said at the press conference. "No city employee or city office may be used for the sole purpose of detecting or apprehending people based on immigration status unless it is in response to a court order."

Atticus Garden with Revolution Ohio, a progressive advocacy group, says while he's pleased that city leaders are considering adopting the status of a sanctuary city, he thinks Ginther's commitment is too vague.

"The city of Columbus will not comply unless a court order is issued," says Garden. "But [Ginther] didn't get into specifics as to what that is."

Garden says it's unclear if this means orders from federal courts, or local courts. He says it's also unclear if Columbus Police are ready to back the Mayor's descision.

When hundreds of protesters descended on John Glenn International Airport on Sunday afternoon, Ginther posted a message of support on Facebook.

"I encourage people to take positive action for the refugee and immigrant community locally, nationally and abroad," Ginther wrote. "Volunteer your time and talent. Donate resources if you are able. This is what ColumbUS looks like."

In a statement, Columbus City Council president Zach Klein called the president's order "unconstitutional" and said it "undermines safety, separates families and pits people against one another."