Michi­gan cap­i­tal city re­thinks ‘sanc­tu­ary’ sta­tus amid threats.


LANS­ING, MICH. | Michi­gan’s cap­i­tal city on Wed­nes­day re­scinded its de­ci­sion to deem it­self a “sanc­tu­ary city” pro­tect­ing im­mi­grants, bow­ing to con­cerns from the busi­ness com­mu­nity that the am­bigu­ous, con­tentious term may draw un­wanted at­ten­tion to Lans­ing.

The City Coun­cil voted 5-2 to re­verse course af­ter last week’s 6-0 vote to call it­self a sanc­tu­ary. The term “sanc­tu­ary city” has no le­gal def­i­ni­tion and varies in ap­pli­ca­tion, but it gen­er­ally refers to ju­ris­dic­tions that do not co­op­er­ate with U.S. im­mi­gra­tion of­fi­cials.

Un­der Lans­ing city pol­icy, po­lice don’t ask for peo­ple’s im­mi­gra­tion sta­tus, ex­cept as re­quired by U.S. or Michi­gan law or a court or­der.

Af­ter the new vote, ad­vo­cates in the crowd called coun­cil mem­bers “spine­less” and said “you’re all los­ing your seats.”

Af­ter last week’s vote, coun­cil mem­bers re­ceived a let­ter from the Lans­ing Re­gional Cham­ber and Michi­gan Cham­ber of Com­merce urg­ing them to re­move ref­er­ences to “sanc­tu­ary city” from its res­o­lu­tion. The dis­pute over the term “sanc­tu­ary city” comes as sev­eral cities are bat­tling Pres­i­dent Trump’s promised crack­down on places that block co­op­er­a­tion be­tween their po­lice de­part­ments and U.S. im­mi­gra­tion au­thor­i­ties.

“The term ‘sanc­tu­ary’ in the res­o­lu­tion has be­come very prob­lem­atic and dis­tract­ing — so dis­tract­ing, in my opin­ion, that it’s taken away from the in­tent of our res­o­lu­tion, which is to pro­tect in­di­vid­u­als,” said Coun­cil­woman Judi Brown Clarke. “It’s ba­si­cally a ‘don’t ask’ pol­icy, which was out­lined by the mayor’s ex­ec­u­tive or­der, and what we had in our pol­icy com­ple­ments that.”

That was al­ready the pol­icy in Lans­ing be­fore last week’s vote, but Lans­ing called it­self a “wel­com­ing city” rather than a “sanc­tu­ary city.”

Nei­ther the wel­com­ing city res­o­lu­tion nor the sanc­tu­ary city res­o­lu­tion called for Lans­ing to pro­hibit work­ers from pro­vid­ing in­for­ma­tion on a per­son’s im­mi­gra­tion sta­tus with U.S. im­mi­gra­tion of­fi­cials — a ban that’s at the heart of some ur­ban sanc­tu­ary cities’ dis­agree­ments with the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion.

But busi­ness lead­ers in Michi­gan ex­pressed con­cern that the term “sanc­tu­ary city” would draw un­wel­come at­ten­tion from the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion, which has warned that sanc­tu­ary cities could lose fed­eral money. The ad­min­is­tra­tion be­gan to pub­lish weekly re­ports of lo­cal ju­ris­dic­tions that aren’t co­op­er­at­ing with fed­eral ef­forts to find and de­port im­mi­grants in the coun­try il­le­gally, though it put that ef­fort on hold ear­lier this week.

“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,” the busi­ness groups’ let­ter says.

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