Ohio Localities Consider Sanctuary City Policies
Legislative Update By Shari Rendall
On October 2, the Civil Immigration Enforcement ordinance proposed by Cleveland Heights Councilman Kahil Seren had its first reading. Two weeks later, the Public Safety and Health Committee, which Councilman Seren chairs, had a contentious public hearing to discuss it. This sanctuary legislation, which punishes law enforcement and city officials violating its provisions, divided the city council members and the city administration.
The Civil Immigration Enforcement ordinance says law enforcement or public officials could be charged with a misdemeanor in the first degree (which according to Ohio law could mean jail time or fines) if they:
- Arrest, detain, or transport an individual at the request of the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) or Customs and Border Protection (CBP) without a warrant.
- Allow ICE or CBP access to individuals in custody or into city facilities for immigration enforcement unless acting pursuant to a court order or for another law enforcement purpose. If ICE or CBP gains access, they must wear their jackets/badges at all times and inform individuals they encounter that they are ICE or CBP agents.
- Inquire about an individual’s citizenship or immigration status unless it serves a law enforcement purpose or is to establish eligibility for benefits.
- Release personally identifiable information about an individual’s custody status, release date or home address to ICE or CBP.
- Surveil individuals based upon their race, ethnicity, religion, or immigration status. Nor shall any city official interrogate, arrest, or detain any individual based on race, ethnicity, religion, or immigration status unless that individual specifically is linked to criminal activity.
Councilman Seren introduced his legislation shortly after ICE sought to deport an Akron woman given refuge by a Presbyterian church. Even though Seren supported the resolution to designate Cleveland Heights as a “welcoming city,” in February 2017, he wanted legislation to put “teeth” into it.
The legislation still must be read twice more before it can be considered by the city council. Seren has indicated that he may change provisions in the proposed ordinance before any vote.
Next week, on election day, the citizens of Kent will vote on a proposed sanctuary city amendment. Kent Citizens for Democracy circulated the petition to get this initiative on the ballot despite the Kent City Council taking actions earlier in the year to indicate it supports immigration. However, when the council voted to allow the initiative to be put onto the ballot, they included language to indicate they did not endorse the ballot initiative. The local newspaper also sounded off on the proposed initiative, urging residents to vote no. “It’s also clear there are times most residents would want our city to contact ICE if, for example, a dangerous felon was arrested and just happened to be here illegally. Many would rather this suspect be deported instead of filling space in our crowded justice system,” noted the Kent Record-Courier editorial board.
The initiative, which requires a majority affirmative vote to pass, reads “Since the citizens of Kent City hereby express a desire for Kent to be a welcoming and inclusive city for all immigrants to live, work, or visit, Kent City is hereby declared to be a Sanctuary City, whose administration and law enforcement will not coordinate or cooperate with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, nor with any other federal agency, regarding the immigration status of any Kent Resident.”
While voters may consider this a gesture meant to send a welcoming sign to would be immigrants, enacting sanctuary policies is a clear violation of federal law that could cost Kent much-needed federal funding. Further, this initiative shields criminal aliens and endangers the community.