Reporter Kelsey O’Connor contributed to this article.
ITHACA, N.Y. — President Donald Trump signed an executive order Wednesday afternoon that states that sanctuary cities will no longer be subject to receiving federal grants. But here in the city of Ithaca, plans are going forward to continue making it a sanctuary city.
“We are not taking this lying down. We’re not going to be bullied. We’re not going to let him bully us into turning on each other,” Mayor Svante Myrick said. “We will not let him (Trump) divide us.”
Trump’s executive order states that all police agencies must work with immigration officials to enforce immigration laws and that jails must hold undocumented immigrants in custody regardless if they’ve committed a crime or not.
The Los Angeles Times reported, “Federal funding for those cities and counties could be put at risk by the order, as officials at the departments of Justice and Homeland Security review what types of grants could be withheld. Exactly how much funding would be stripped is unclear, and it could take months for the full impact of the order to be seen.”
Myrick said that the City of Ithaca will be able to continue operating even without that funding. He said Ithaca does not usually get grants from the Department of Justice and only gets the occasional, small sum grant from Homeland Security. He said the small grants are generally used for a specific one-time purpose, such as buying a piece of specialized equipment for the SWAT team. But funding for things like that could be found elsewhere, he said.
“Honestly, we can operate just fine without those grants and we will,” Myrick said.
Myrick reiterated that anti-immigrant sentiments driving Trump’s executive order are done out of bigotry and not adequate policy to keep people safe. In fact, he said it does the opposite.
He said that undocumented immigrants who are afraid of deportation are less likely to report crimes to police, less likely to speak up if they see a crime happening and more likely to be victims of crimes. In Ithaca, he said he could not remember, offhand, a single major violent incident committed by an undocumented immigrant recently.
Alderman Cynthia Brock, 1st Ward, said that while she would not speak to the executive order directly, she would continue moving forward with a resolution to make Ithaca a “safe city” for immigrants. A “safe city is the same thing as a sanctuary city.
“Right now there are individuals
She said that, ideally, the city would pass a resolution that reaffirms Ithaca as a “safe city” and prevent city officials or law enforcement from actively trying to enforce deportation laws for people who are not engaged in criminal activity.
Brock said that a new resolution that will be put forward in February would include suggestions from New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman about city jurisdictions and laws regarding sanctuary cities.
Schneiderman said in a news release earlier today:
“The President lacks the constitutional authority to cut off funding to states and cities simply because they have lawfully acted to protect immigrant families — as described in the legal guidance my office issued last week. Local governments seeking to protect their immigrant communities from federal overreach have every right to do so.
“Building and maintaining trust between local law enforcement and the communities they bravely serve is vital to ensuring public safety. Any attempt to bully local governments into abandoning policies that have proven to keep our cities safe is not only unconstitutional, but threatens the safety of our citizens.
“I urge President Trump to revoke this Executive Order right away. If he does not, I will do everything in my power to fight it.”
Myrick said the city is also doing its own work to determine how to legally fight for undocumented immigrants locally.
“We are working hard doing our own legal research and joining with cities around the country who have their own agenda and we’ll fight him in the courts,” Myrick said. “Just like we did last weekend, when needed, we’ll fight him in the streets.”
Trump’s executive order passed while the Tompkins County Workforce Diversity and Inclusion Committee was discussing drafting a resolution to make Tompkins County a sanctuary county.
Anna Kelles, co-chair of the WDIC, said at the meeting Wednesday that she is beginning to investigate what the fiscal impact would be if federal funding was cut.
At the last Tompkins County Legislature meeting, a draft resolution “condemning violence and hate speech, expressing solidarity with Muslims and all those targeted for their ethnicity, race or religion” did not pass because legislators felt the language was too broad.
Featured photo by Kelsey O’Connor/The Ithaca Voice.