Thursday, February 2, 2023

EL City Council delays vote on 'sanctuary city' proposal, citing possible implications

December 7, 2022
<p>The East Lansing City Hall in East Lansing on Sept. 21, 2021.</p>

The East Lansing City Hall in East Lansing on Sept. 21, 2021.

Photo by Lauren Snyder | The State News

The East Lansing City Council decided Tuesday to delay a vote on declaring the city as a sanctuary city, citing requests to the city's legal team on effects the status could have and how the status would differ from East Lansing's current "safe haven" status passed in 2017.

The city's Human Rights Commission, later joined by the University Student Commission, passed a resolution last month asking the council to designate East Lansing as a sanctuary city. The designation would mean city officials and law enforcement would not cooperate with federal agents to enforce immigration laws.

“Sanctuary usually implies some level of openness, which we think is just a little bit more appropriate when we think about how East Lansing executes immigration enforcement,” University Student Commission chairperson Shaurya Pandya said. “It really follows a lot of what I would say is a student-friendly initiative.”

Mayor Pro Tem Jessy Gregg, who is in favor of the resolution, said she was an audience member during the council's 2017 resolution declaring the city a "safe haven." The original resolution to declare East Lansing a "sanctuary city" was softened due to the threat from the Trump administration to withhold funding from cities that declared themselves as such.

However, for the next couple of years, the city will not have to worry about the threat of withheld funds as a result of the Biden administration's stance on the matter, according to East Lansing City Manager George Lahanas.

According to Gregg, East Lansing already upholds the policies that support the mission of a sanctuary city. However, the city hasn't committed itself to the full "sanctuary" wording.

“If I was invited to someplace as a welcomed person versus somebody that was seeking sanctuary, those two are very different feelings,” Gregg said.

Attorney Anthony Chubb said the 2017 resolution changed policy to where the city refused to participate with federal authorities as it related to unfair treatment against people with immigrant or refugee status. Under the new proposed resolution in 2022, the East Lansing Police Department would continue to operate as it has been since the 2017 policy change, which includes acting on violations of law or judicial orders like warrants.

According to Chubb, there is no statute defining a "sanctuary city,". The term was used to combine local governmental entities that aimed to adopt pro-immigrant policies.

Social relations and policy senior Raquel Acosta shared the story of her father, a Mexican immigrant, who spent most of his childhood working in the crop fields of Michigan and how he went on to get his bachelor's and master's degrees from Michigan State University.

“Nothing happens with education or local communities if we are not all allowed to be active participants. If we are not all allowed a place to critically process and operationalize each and every one of our thoughts, feelings and passions, we will never reach our full potential as a community,” Acosta said on her father's behalf. “Our city officials need to take the lead for people are altering oppressive structural conditions.”

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