immigrant policy initiated by Lorain County Catholic Action
OBERLIN, Nov. 13, 2008 (AP): Undocumented immigrants should be
able to seek help from police or fire departments without fear
of being turned over to federal agents, according to a proposal
being presented to the city council in this college town.
If the measure passes, Oberlin, Ohio would join about 30 other
cities that prohibit local officials from assisting immigration
agents. Critics say such policies undermine the work of U.S.
Immigration and Customs Enforcement, an investigative arm of the
Department of Homeland Security.
The city's police force would not assist immigration agents
unless ordered to do so, possibly by a court, City Manager
Eric Norenberg said Thursday of the proposal.
``It's a resolution that would have the force of law, in effect,
a policy directing staff on how to act in certain situations,''
said Norenberg, who hasn't take a position on the issue.
``Whether we have this in place or not we do want residents to
feel comfortable calling the city,'' he said. ``To be able to
operate without asking about immigration status, that's
generally our current practice now.''
Oberlin's Human Relations Commission this week recommended that
the city's council consider making the policy clear. Norenberg
said the proposal initiated with the citizen group Lorain
County Catholic Action Commission and may come up for a
council vote Dec. 15, 2008.
Oberlin City Councilman David Ashenhurst, the council's liaison
to the commission, said the proposal isn't suggesting immigrant
``It isn't talking about sanctuary, it's about not cooperating
if we don't have to with a policy we don't think is very well
worked out,'' he said. ``It is about where the federal
government offers to the local government the possibility of
cooperating on something that is really just not well defined.''
He said he supports the sentiment of the policy and hopes the
council can work out particulars.
Council President David Sonner said he had not seen the proposal
or had a chance to consider it.
``I don't know anything about the content,'' Sonner said from a
National League of Cities Conference in Orlando, Fla. ``It's
much too early to make any predictions about it.''
ICE raid on Casa Fiesta restaurants
Sonner said he thinks Oberlin’s interest in such a resolution or
law results from the arrests of five undocumented immigrants
during a July 2008 raid on a Mexican restaurant there. ICE
agents arrested 58 employees across northern Ohio in raids July
23 at Casa Fiesta restaurants. The 54 men and four women
arrested were from Mexico.
``We have a lot of people from other countries visiting and
living here,'' Oberlin police Capt. Clifton Barnes said.
Oberlin, about 30 miles southwest of Cleveland, has about 8,200
residents. It is home to Oberlin College, a private liberal arts
school with an enrollment of 2,839, of which 171 are foreign
Immigration status normally isn't a concern in Oberlin unless a
person from another country is in a traffic accident or commits
a crime, Barnes said.
``Savvy criminals may exploit such policies, believing they can
seek safe haven in sanctuary cities,'' ICE spokesman Michael
W. Gilhooly said from Williston, Vt. ``When that happens,
there are real risks for residents' welfare, and in some cases,
even national security.''
has a sanctuary law that prohibits the use of city funds to help
enforce federal immigration law or question individuals about
their immigration status.
But San Francisco's policies toward undocumented immigrants have
come under intense scrutiny after it was revealed that a number
of juvenile offenders were shielded from deportation because of
the city's sanctuary policy.
Mayor Gavin Newsom reversed the juvenile offender policy in May,
but said he stood by the city's vow to shelter undocumented
immigrants who otherwise follow the law from deportation.
The city council in Ann Arbor, Mich., passed a sanctuary law in
2002 and the results have been beneficial, Mayor John Hieftje
said. City officials believed federal officials were harassing
the city's large Muslim population, the mayor said.
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