by M.J. Taylor…….
At least 10 US cities have reaffirmed their status as Sanctuary Cities in recent weeks, despite being in Trump’s crosshairs – and Key West, while not officially a Sanctuary City, reaffirmed its motto, One Human Family in early December. One city commissioners, Jimmy Weekley, would like to see the city declare itself a “Welcoming City” if not a Sanctuary City, per se.
Key West police officers already have a “hands off” policy when it comes to immigrant status. It is not routine to ask anyone about their immigration status when during traffic stops or arrests of any sort, confirms Chief Donie Lee.
While some jurisdictions, such as Miami, have recently backtracked on their attitude toward helping the government enforce federal immigration laws, San Francisco is fighting back, suing President Donald Trump for a violation of the 10th amendment. The lawsuit, filed Jan. 31 of this year, calls the Pres. Trump’s executive order to withhold funds from sanctuary jurisdictions “a blatant disregard of the law.”
“President Trump’s executive order tries to turn city and state employees into federal immigration officers. That is unconstitutional,” said Dennis Herrera, city attorney for San Francisco when he announced the lawsuit. “No president can commandeer the local police force and turn it into the deportation arm of the federal government.”
So, what exactly is a Sanctuary City?
A lot of confusion has swirled around this topic since Commissioner Weekley suggested he might have the city attorney draft a resolution declaring Key West a Sanctuary City.
No legal definition exists for the term, so what it means varies from place to place. In general practice, it means that local law enforcement and municipal employees neither inquire about immigration status nor routinely report immigration status to the federal government. Some ‘sanctuary jurisdictions’ also refuse requests from federal authorities to detain undocumented immigrants who have been arrested for minor offenses. This is not pertinent to the City of Key West since anyone arrested is held in a County jail, an entirely separate jurisdiction unaffected by Key West policies toward immigration status.
Local jurisdictions have no obligation to enforce federal laws, proponents maintain. And, while not a proponent of Sanctuary City status, Key West Police Chief Lee said recently, Enforcing U. S. Immigration law is “not our function, not our mission, and as long as I am police chief, it won’t be.”
Chief Lee has also made it clear that he would rather not have his hands tied by any resolution.
“There are times where we may need to cooperate with immigration or customs,” he said.
Key West residents will have a chance to explore the topic, and ask questions of immigration experts when the ACLU hosts its March 9th Town Hall, “ Key West: Sanctuary City? A conversation on immigrant rights.” The event will take place from 7-9 pm, Thursday, March 9th at the Harvey Government Center. 1200 Truman Ave. Panelists are: FIU Professor Erik Camayd-Freixas; Key West Immigration Attorney Wayne Dapser, Jonathan Fried, executive director of We-Count! ; and Howard Simon, Executive Director of the ACLU of Florida. Former Columbia Law Professor George Cooper will moderate the panel. The forum is free and open to the public. For more information email: ACLUFloridaKeys@gmail.com.