Newark passes ‘welcoming city’ resolution
City vows not to investigate immigration violations
City council waded into the immigration debate Monday, passing a largely symbolic resolution declaring Newark a “welcoming city” to everyone, regardless of immigration status.
The resolution prohibits the police department from investigating or detaining a person solely on the basis of a suspected violation of immigration law. It also dictates that the city will not share private information about an individual with state or federal agencies unless it is required to do so by law.
“This resolution is really just recognizing policies and procedures that the city police have already been undertaking,” said Councilwoman Jen Wallace, who helped spearhead the effort. “This is just a way for us to get the word out and make it known Newark is really concerned with public safety and not other things that it shouldn’t be concerned with.”
Newark Police Chief Paul Tiernan confirmed that the resolution does not affect the way his officers do their job.
“The Newark Police Department does not and never did solely stop anyone or investigate anybody based on immigration status,” Tiernan said, noting the resolution simply codifies existing policy. “This changes nothing in the way this department has acted and will act.”
The resolution does not prevent the police department from taking action when someone arrested for another crime is found to be in the country illegally.
“If someone commits a crime and there’s an immigration issue, that would be investigated,” Tiernan said.
The resolution was pushed by the advocacy group Network Delaware. Several members and other residents have spoken at council meetings over the past few months urging Newark to adopt the resolution.
Earlier this year, New Castle County and the Christina School District adopted similar measures, which are often referred to as “sanctuary city” laws by critics.
“I have long thought we should make a public stand on behalf of our undocumented friends, neighbors, students and coworkers,” said Newark resident Miranda Wilson, one of the chief proponents of the resolution. “Our community is made stronger when all of us, regardless of immigration status, feel that our law enforcement is here to protect us.”
“Making a public declaration, a goodwill statement, makes us feel good about ourselves and our community and during this season spreads good will to all,” resident Catriona Binder-Macleod added.
Resident Karen Barker said the resolution “makes an important statement about who we are and the values we hold here in the city of Newark, values that include welcoming all people with respect.”
Only one resident, Albert Porach, spoke out against the resolution Monday, calling it “absolutely absurd.”
“If you all insist on passing this tonight, I think I will write a letter to the attorney general to see if he can bring action against the city of Newark,” Porach said.
The resolution passed 6-1, with Councilman Luke Chapman casting the lone opposing vote.
“It’s a beautiful example of us working together, and I appreciate all of your efforts,” Mayor Polly Sierer said after the vote, addressing the supporters in the audience.
In July, acting City Manager Tom Coleman warned council that passing sanctuary city legislation could result in the loss of a $150,000 federal grant, thanks to an executive order issued by President Donald Trump. However, a federal judge recently struck down the order.
City spokeswoman Kelly Bachman said Tuesday that the city no longer believes the resolution will affect grant funding.