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Lansing city council tables "sanctuary city" resolution

steve carmody
Michigan Radio

Lansing is not yet Michigan’s next "sanctuary city."

After two and half hours of passionate, though civil, public comment, the Lansing city council decided to table the resolution.  

The resolution actually stopped short of declaring Lansing a “sanctuary city." Instead, it describes Michigan’s capitol city as a “welcoming” city. 

None of the dozens of speakers supported the resolution. People supportive of undocumented immigrants argued the resolution lacked the "teeth" to protect them. People against illegal immigration didn’t like it because of what little it did do.

The measure is not dead. The city council could bring the resolution back in a couple of weeks, although it’s not clear what changes will be made.

The draft form of the resolution “encouraged” Lansing police officers and officials to maintain “confidentiality reporting and information gathering without concern for national origin or immigrant status.”

“We cannot direct (the Lansing police department) to do anything,” says City Council President Patricia Spitzley. The city attorney warned the council that it sets policy, but it lacks the statutory authority to direct how that policy will be implemented.

Credit steve carmody / Michigan Radio
Michigan Radio
The '"sanctuary city" debate drew a diverse group to Lansing city hall, from Black Lives Matter to III% Patriots.

The draft resolution also encouraged the city to challenge, including potential “legal remedies," state and federal efforts to require “police officers to enforce federal immigration law.”

That second part is a nod to an executive order by President Trump penalizing so-called sanctuary cities.  

At-large Councilwoman Kathie Dunbar expressed disappointment in the final version of the resolution.  She wanted a stronger resolution to challenge the Trump administration’s immigration policies. 

Despite last night’s setback, Kathie Dunbar is confident Lansing will approve some form "sanctuary city" resolution.

“We all agree on where we want to get. We know we want to protect our residents,” says Dunbar. “We’re just trying to figure out the best way to do it.”

Dunbar says the resolution would simply put into policy what the Lansing city police are already doing in practice.

That may be some comfort for undocumented and other immigrants living in Michigan’s capitol city. 

Elva Reyes is with LLEAD, Latino Leaders for the Enhancement of Advocacy and Development. She says undocumented city residents should not be discouraged.

“We want them to understand they’re safe,” Reyes said after the meeting. “We’re going to keep working on it. And we will fight the fight 'til we get the right wording.”

Whatever the city of Lansing does may run the city afoul with the state and federal governments.

State lawmakers are considering banning Michigan cities from declaring themselves sanctuary cities.

And the Trump administration is threatening cities with a loss of their federal funding if they don’t assist federal immigration agencies. That could cost the city of Lansing $6 million annually.   

Steve Carmody has been a reporter for Michigan Public since 2005. Steve previously worked at public radio and television stations in Florida, Oklahoma and Kentucky, and also has extensive experience in commercial broadcasting.