The city of Cincinnati doubled down on Monday as its mayor proclaimed, “this city has been for years, and will remain, a sanctuary city.”
Community leaders applauded Cincinnati Mayor John Cranley’s declaration, including Shakila Ahmad, president of the Islamic Center of Cincinnati in West Chester Twp.
Ahmad stood with the mayor, local and state elected officials, and others who represent various religious and ethnic communities within Greater Cincinnati.
President Donald Trump signed an executive order Friday that banned citizens from Iraq, Syria, Iran, Sudan, Libya, Somalia, and Yemen — majority Muslim countries — from entering the U.S. for 90 days. It also suspended the U.S. refugee program for 120 days.
“I think we as Americans should all be deeply concerned not only because we’re denying refugees into this country that have been so, so thoroughly vetted and so, so subjugated to pain and violence and scrutiny, but we’re also impacting fellow Americans,” said Ahmad. “(They may) have relatives that might be in one of these countries who are impacting permanent residents who have to go through this process again. It’s just completely mind-baffling and extremely disturbing encounter to ruin the principles all of us really cherish America for.”
Federal funding is also at stake for local and state governments who proclaim to be a sanctuary city, which is a local or state government that has adopted a policy of not prosecuting undocumented immigrants just because they live within its jurisdiction.
In July 2014 the city of Cincinnati launched its “We Are All Immigrants” initiative, saying its goal was to be a the most immigrant-friendly city in America.
“This city opposes the executive orders to halt refugee settlements and targeting cities trying to live up to the promise of the Statute of Liberty,” said Cranley, who also said, “I don’t believe it” when asked his thoughts on losing federal funding.
Hamilton County Commission President Todd Portune said at the press conference that denying federal funding because a government proclaimed to be a sanctuary city is unconstitutional because it’s a civil issue, not criminal law.
“It is against the law to deny federal funding to communities for taking positions like this,” Portune said at Monday’s press conference. “I like to believe that we are still a nation of laws. We certainly at the local level are going to enforce the laws.”
Butler County Sheriff Richard Jones says that’s okay by him if Cincinnati, or any other city, wants to be a sanctuary city.
“It will affect them when the president takes away their federal funds, and the way it will affect me is when I ask for their federal funds,” Jones told this news outlet. “If they don’t need the federal money, the sheriff here in Butler County can use that money.”
Jones said that he believes the order is lawful, and any challenge in court will be lost, but said, “let them go to court — and I’m fine with that. It’s the American way to go to court.”
U.S. Rep. Warren Davidson, R-Troy, applauded Trump’s executive order when he on Friday called it a “commonsense” measure to fill in security gaps when screening refugees the mostly Muslim Middle Eastern and African countries.
“We know that terrorists want to hurt us, and they know our refugee system is a weak point,” said Davidson on Friday. “The United States will still be a place that welcomes refugees, but we will now review our screening procedures to ensure members of ISIS and its affiliates do not infiltrate our country.”
Davidson was one of 38 House Republicans in a letter sent this past September asking congressional leaders to prevent funding from being used to admit refugees from believed terrorist hot spots from entering the country.
Over the weekend U.S. Sens. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, and Rob Portman, R-Ohio, were critical of Trump’s executive order.
“Keeping America safe must be our top priority, and we do that by aggressively going after terrorism wherever it exists, not by turning our backs on children and families just like ours, whose only goal is to escape violence and persecution,” Brown said. “We must continue to use every tool at our disposal to make sure our screening system is tough and effective … but targeting women, children and families who are fleeing the very same terrorists we are fighting against is wrong, will not make America safer, and may actually undermine our long-term security.”
Portman told CNN: “I think it was not properly vetted.”
“In my view, we ought to all take a deep breath and come up with something that makes sense for our national security and again for this notion that America has always been a welcoming home for refugees and immigrants. In fact, we are more welcoming than any country in the world and we should continue to be so,” he said.
Butler County Democratic Party Executive Chairwoman Jocelyn Bucaro called out Davidson, saying he has “been conspicuously absent as Iraqi citizens who put the lives of themselves and their family at risk to help the U.S. military in Iraq are now being treated as suspected terrorists themselves for no other reason than they come from Iraq.”
“While bipartisan criticism mounts, Davidson should … see that this policy does not make us safer and does not reflect America’s values,” she said. “He was elected to be our voice in Congress. It’s time for him to speak out.”