Just when it appeared a sanctuary city designation wouldn't return to City Council for reconsideration, two council members surprised their colleagues Monday night and scheduled a special meeting.
This meeting, scheduled for 6:30 p.m. Wednesday on the 10th floor of City Hall, likely will decide whether a current council resolution declaring Lansing a "sanctuary city" will be replaced with terms less controversial. It will be open to the public.
News of the meeting scheduled by Judi Brown Clarke and Carol Wood, both at-large council members, was made public after seven council members met Monday night in two public meetings for nearly five hours on other matters.
Per City Charter, Clarke, who is running for mayor, and Wood had to call for the meeting no less than 18 hours before the proposed day so it can be publicly posted by the City Clerk's Office.
Clarke didn't attend Monday's Committee of the Whole and general meetings. Clarke wrote Tuesday morning in a text message to the Lansing State Journal that she was currently in Seattle "in the capacity of member of the International Advisory Committee to the Joint Institute of Nuclear Astrophysics." Clarke has a full-time job at Michigan State University. Her role is diversity director for the National Science Foundations's Bio-Computational Evolution in Action Consortium Center at MSU.
Earlier Tuesday, Clarke said in a statement the sanctuary city term in council's resolution approved last week became "a trigger and negative distraction." "This was not a change in our belief in positing Lansing as a welcoming city," Clarke said. "Rather, this resolves a challenge from outside requests."
The "sanctuary city" declaration has been controversial because critics claim those words are code for purposely violating federal immigration laws. Before six council members voted to approve the declaration on April 3, Lansing was considered a "welcoming city." Both declarations cover, according to written policy, refugees and immigrants who may be undocumented.
Those who supported the sanctuary city declaration last week were Clarke, Wood, Council President Patricia Spitzley, At-Large Council Member Kathie Dunbar, 2nd Ward Council Member Tina Houghton and 4th Ward Council Member Jessica Yorko.
Clarke said the sanctuary city term "undermined our ability to state how we embrace our community and remain fiscally diligent." She described the meeting Wednesday as "an effort to provide clarification."
First Ward Council Member Jody Washington and 3rd Ward Council Member Adam Hussain weren't present at last week's meeting. In a joint letter last week to council, the Lansing Regional Chamber of Commerce and Michigan Chamber of Commerce requested the term "sanctuary city" to be removed from their resolution.
A pro-sanctuary city group, By Any Means Necessary, accuses Clarke and Wood of "being more concerned with money than their constituents." If council rescinds the sanctuary city declaration, BAMN's Lansing area members -- who have advocated for the declaration for several weeks -- said they believe it will allow the city to be "bullied" by President Donald Trump's administration and business interests.
"We urge everyone who took pride in that victory (on April 3) to come Wednesday night and show our city government that we will not allow them to quietly take back their votes to satisfy the interests of business leaders," BAMN's statement said.
Last week, Mayor Virg Bernero issued an executive order pertaining to the Police Department's treatment of immigrants and refugees, including those who may be undocumented. Bernero said he believes his order is legal; it doesn't include any references to Lansing as a sanctuary city.
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