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Activists tell the City of Grand Rapids they need a policy that doesn’t make immigrants feel threatened

October 11, 2017

Last night, during the Grand Rapids City Commission, several activists and organizers with the Micah Center and Movimiento Cosecha GR, spoke passionately during the public comment portion of the meeting about the urgency of having a policy that would not threaten immigrants in this community.

Since December, the City of Grand Rapids has opted to call itself a Welcoming City and not a Sanctuary City, due to the possible loss of federal funding. The Trump administration has sought to withhold federal funds from cities that declare themselves a Sanctuary City. However, a federal judge recently ruled to block the administration from preventing cities that are designated as Sanctuary Cities from receiving federal funds. Last month CNN reported:

“The harm to the city’s relationship with the immigrant community, if it should accede to the conditions, is irreparable,” Judge Leinenweber wrote. “Once such trust is lost, it cannot be repaired through an award of money damages.”

Friday’s decision marked the second time this year a federal judge has blocked the Trump administration’s efforts to force sanctuary cities to cooperate on immigration enforcement. A judge in San Francisco restricted a January executive order from Trump that threatened to block all federal funds to sanctuary cities — a catchall term generally used to describe jurisdictions that have some policy of noncooperation with federal immigration enforcement.

Gema Lowe, with the Workers Center made her statement in Spanish, without an interpreter, thus highlighting the intimidation factor that immigrants face when interacting with the city. She also had a statement on her back saying NO Intimidation, which underscored the urgency for the city to adopt a policy that doesn’t make immigrants feel threatened. Lowe stated that the city needs to adopt a policy to make sure that no city employee, and especially the GRPD, does not ask people what their immigration status is.

Russell Olmsted also spoke about how such a policy was a matter of equity. He also said that the city needed to send a strong message to the immigrant community that they are valued and that they will be protected from intimidation.

LaDonna Norman both spoke about the importance of immigrants feeling welcomed in this city and Martha Cooper said that people who already feel intimidated by the Federal government, should not have to feel intimidated by local government as well.

Jim Howe asked the Mayor of Grand Rapids where she was born. He did so to illustrate how invasive and intimidating it would be for city staff to ask something similar. Howe said that the City needs to adopt a policy where immigrants, regardless of status, should be protected from further harassment and intimidation.

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