Hyattsville City Council to vote tonight on sanctuary city status

By Carly Haynes and James Mahoney.

Just a few miles down the road from the White House, the Hyattsville City Council has preliminarily chosen to declare itself a “sanctuary city” in an 8-2 vote. The measure proposes that local law enforcement will not ask about an individual’s citizenship, and will still provide protections to illegal immigrants without evading federal law.

This vote follows President Donald Trump’s executive order titled, “Enhancing Public Safety in the Interior of the United States,” which includes a proposal stating the government will withdraw federal funding from any jurisdiction that claims itself to be a “sanctuary city.”

Hyattsville has accepted over $1 million in federal grants over the past seven years, mainly for maintaining and updating equipment for the Hyattsville Police Department. Fewer federal grants would mean the money would have to come from taxpayer dollars, according to Hyattsville City Council Member Paula Perry.

Perry, one of the two people to vote against the ordinance, said that the ambiguous language of the bill miscommunicates the actual ability of the local government to overcome federal immigration laws.

“By calling it ‘sanctuary’ city… that implies you’re safe. And they’re not safe by any means,” Perry said.

Perry added that the city’s promise to be inclusive toward immigrants is nothing new. Now, her concern is the increasing attention the bill is creating through the media.

Perry says the publicity this new bill causes will only put immigrants that live in Hyattsville at a higher risk, making them more likely to be targeted by the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services.

“They’ve made it more unsafe because they went to the newspapers, they’ve been on TV, and they’re letting people know that this is what we’re doing and what this is going to cause,” she said.

The ordinance states that Hyattsville, “Establishes itself as a Sanctuary City and establishes that the city of Hyattsville does not intervene in federal immigration matters.”

Though being deemed a sanctuary city may seem monumental, City Council Member Shani Warner said Hyattsville has carried out the same practices for years; this just puts an official title to it.

“Nothing is going to change whether we call ourselves a sanctuary city or not,” said Warner, who voted in favor of the ordinance.

She added that if the ordinance was simply phrased as, “You do your job, we’ll do ours,” there would not be as much opposition towards it.   

Warner said that being declared a sanctuary city can help build a healthy relationship between local law enforcement and the Hyattsville community, which according to the 2010 census is one-third Hispanic or Latino.

Many people within the Latino community are afraid to report crimes or serve as witnesses out of fear of deportation for either themselves or for friends and family members. With this stigma, Warner explained that Hyattsville law enforcement “can’t do the job of policing.”

The final vote to determine whether or not the bill will become law will take place during tonight’s City Council meeting. Be sure to check back here for an update after the vote.

Featured image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

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