In a swift reversal, Lansing City Council removes sanctuary city resolution

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Sanctuary city supporters  stand outside of the city council meeting on Monday, Feb. 27 with a banner to show support for a resolution.

Taylor Skelton

Sanctuary city supporters stand outside of the city council meeting on Monday, Feb. 27 with a banner to show support for a resolution.

The Lansing City Council has rescinded its sanctuary city resolution.

A special council meeting held on April 12 consisted of a vote to rescind the sanctuary city resolution and title. The vote concluded with a 5-2 vote in support to rescind the resolution.

That came fewer than two weeks after a resolution to declare Lansing a sanctuary city was unanimously voted on and approved April 3, just hours after Lansing Mayor Virg Bernero released an executive order that clarified policies in place for city officials and law enforcement to more effectively protect immigrant and refugees in the community.

Prior to becoming a sanctuary city, Lansing labeled itself as a welcoming city for immigrants and refugees. However, member of Lansing’s branch of By Any Means Necessary (BAMN) Seth Kalis said the policies then were not enough to protect immigrants and refugees.

For months, organizations like Lansing’s chapter of BAMN and Action of Great
er Lansing
had been working to gain a sanctuary Screen Shot 2017-04-06 at 9.00.14 AM
city title for Lansing and to improve protection over their unauthorized immigrant population of nearly 1,600 according to Pew Research Center. Although, the sanctuary title is removed Bernero’s executive order is still in effect to protect the immigrant sand refugees in the community.

“No matter how the city council tries to spin this the fact of the matter is that it took the coalition fighting for this issue months to get them to act but after one letter from the chamber of commerce they quickly rescinded,” Kalis said. “This was absolutely a vote motivated by business interests. This lack of courage and willingness to put their undocumented people at risk cannot be the normal operating procedure.”

Director of Operations at Action of Greater Lansing Oscar Castaneda said of course he wanted Lansing to stay a sanctuary city and now there are some decisions that need to be made.

“I don’t know what our next move is yet,” Castaneda said. “We need to think about it.”

Castaneda says that although the title they originally wanted is now removed, the immigrants and refugees in the community now better off than before.

“We are better off than we were before because we have the executive order that the mayor created,” Castaneda said. “Are we better off after the whole process? Yes, we are.”

Although support for the sanctuary city was significant in the community, Lansing had many people who were opposed to the label and supported reversing direction. A common concern among those opposed of Lansing being a sanctuary city was the possibility of losing over $6 million provided by federal funding that predominantly goes to public safety costs.

The Lansing Regional Chamber and Michigan Chamber of Commerce sent a letter to the Lansing City Council members on April 6 urging their concerns about a sanctuary city.

In the letter they stated, “Lansing is a diverse community, rich with history and culture.
It’s what makes our city a welcoming destination to live, work and thrive. Recent actions of City Council, whether intended or not, have placed an unnecessary target on the City of Lansing while jeopardizing millions of dollars in federal funding that impacts the city budget. A budget, that cannot afford to fill a gap this significant.”

While the council has received a mixture of reactions for their recent actions, some responses have been supportive. Michigan House Speaker Tom Leonard said in a press release following the rescindment that he supports the council’s choice and is glad to see them come back to reality.

In his press release he stated, “I want to thank the council for realizing their mistake and rescinding Lansing’s designation as a ‘sanctuary city.’ Hopefully now they can go back to focusing on the issues people elected them to solve, like crumbling roads and bridges and the hundreds of millions of dollars in legacy debt that is hanging over the head of every Lansing resident. Those are the important issues facing this community, those are the issues we are addressing at the state level, and those are the issues that demand the council’s attention.”

The concerns about a sanctuary city have gone on for months and Kalis says they will not stop here.

“As always BAMN believes the fight for sanctuary starts and ends with the people of Lansing,” Kalis said. “The city government has made our point for us, they will not stand up for marginalized people and so we must stand up together and show them that we will protect each other.”