LANSING, MICH. - The City Council made Lansing a "sanctuary city" Monday night on a 5-1 vote.
It's unclear precisely what that means, because the Council's resolution doesn't include a definition.
City Attorney Jim Smiertka warned council members the sanctuary city term could be interpreted several ways. Ultimately, the impact on the city depends on how President Donald Trump's administration defines it, Smiertka said.
If the Trump administration takes issue with Lansing's status, it could revoke or halt federal funding for the city. Trump administration officials have mentioned those ramifications for all sanctuary cities since the president took office.
Fourth Ward Council Member Jessica Yorko put the sanctuary city amendment resolution on the floor for a vote. Council President Patricia Spitzley opposed it.
The designation appeared to please activists from the group By Any Means Necessary, who have lobbied for weeks for council members to create a sanctuary city resolution. The group, like others, applies the term to cities that state clearly that they won't cooperate with federal law enforcement on immigration matters.
In a separate move, Mayor Virg Bernero appeared to surprise several at City Hall on Monday night when he announced an executive order that lays out limits on that cooperation.
The order mandates that Lansing police officers not stop, pursue or arrest anyone based solely on their immigration status or violations of immigration laws; that police not ask about the immigration status of crime victims or witnesses and that the department not enter into any agreements to perform the functions of federal immigration agents for the Department of Homeland Security, among other provisions.
Bernero, speaking at City Council's Committee of the Whole meeting, said his order will help develop new procedures in the city that will "preserve and enhance" existing relationships between the community and Police Department.
Earlier Monday, Bernero's office emailed a press release to the Lansing State Journal that mentioned "various immigrant and refugee-related controversies" coming from President Donald Trump's office and U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions.
"I am issuing the executive order to empower our officers in these legal gray areas, while still protecting the interests of all Lansing residents," Benrero said in the statement.
During the committee meeting, Bernero stressed that he doesn't want police to become de facto immigration agents. He described the Trump administration as having a "divisive and draconian direction."
Nowhere in Bernero's order does it designate Lansing as a "sanctuary city."
Council members showed support for Bernero's executive order in their committee meeting with a 7-0 vote among the seven members present. Third Ward Council Member Adam Hussain had an excused absence from the meeting.
First Ward Council Member Jody Washington, who wasn't present for the sanctuary city vote, described Bernero's order as "the right thing to do." Washington added that changes in policies, especially for the Police Department, especially in terms of enforcement, are part of an "administrative procedure and an administrative responsibility."
Spitzley said Washington left the meeting before the sanctuary city vote because she felt ill.
At-Large Council Member Judi Brown Clarke, who is running for mayor this year, described Bernero's move and efforts by council members to craft a new "welcoming city" resolution for protecting immigrants and refugees as an effort that shows "Lansing has got it right,"
"We're aligned," Clarke said.
Lansing State Journal