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Rochester updates status as Sanctuary City

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Rochester has asserted itself as a Sanctuary City amid sweeping federal orders to crack down on illegal immigrants. City Council unanimously approved a resolution Tuesday night that updates its status as a Sanctuary City.

The move comes on the same day Homeland Security announced plans to enforce President Donald Trump’s executive order that enforces stricter border security and enforces immigration laws.

More than 20 people showed up to speak last night, most of them on the Sanctuary City issue. Rochester originally designated itself a Sanctuary City in 1986.

The resolution states that city resources will not be used to create a registry based on a person’s national origin, race, religion, or otherwise. And as with the 1986 resolution, it says city personnel will not inquire or request proof of immigration status or citizenship when providing services or benefits, unless specifically required to do so by law.

Sandra Boehlert urges City Council to pass a resolution updating its status as a Sanctuary City. - PHOTO BY KEVIN FULLER
  • PHOTO BY KEVIN FULLER
  • Sandra Boehlert urges City Council to pass a resolution updating its status as a Sanctuary City.

City Council chambers were filled with supporters of the resolution, cheering when a proponent spoke during the public input portion of the meeting, some waving signs. “Economics are not hurt by refugees,” said the Rev. Rod Frohman of the Presbytery of Genesee Valley, urging the City Council to pass the resolution. “The right thing to do is to do it. It’s in your own social economic self interest to do it.”

The resolution was proposed by Rochester Mayor Lovely Warren earlier this month.

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“Rochester is not a city that holds people down and kicks people out,” Warren said in a press release. “We are a city that views diversity as a strength, and by providing access to jobs, safe neighborhoods, and quality educational opportunities to all, we can build even more avenues to success. After all, we are the place where Frederick Douglass penned an abolitionist newspaper as he helped slaves to freedom and where Susan B. Anthony cast the illegal vote that forever changed history. It is our duty to carry out the legacies of Anthony, Douglass and so many others, and stand by the many individuals who continue to make this city and this nation great.”

A supporter of the resolution waves a sign after an opponent spoke out against the resolution during the public input portion of the meeting. - PHOTO BY KEVIN FULLER
  • PHOTO BY KEVIN FULLER
  • A supporter of the resolution waves a sign after an opponent spoke out against the resolution during the public input portion of the meeting.

City Council’s legislation provides an important but modest amount of protection. The city is now on record as saying that it will uphold and protect the civil and human rights of “all individuals that come within its borders, including immigrants and refugees.”

Rochester City Council listened to more than 20 people speak in support of the proposed resolution. Only one person spoke against the resolution. - PHOTO BY KEVIN FULLER
  • PHOTO BY KEVIN FULLER
  • Rochester City Council listened to more than 20 people speak in support of the proposed resolution. Only one person spoke against the resolution.

Rochester police officers won’t conduct help Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents enforce the new Trump orders by, for instance, asking people about their immigration status when they’re conducting a criminal investigation. They won’t stop and question people simply because they appear to be immigrants. City staff won’t ask for proof of immigration status or citizenship when they’re talking with people about city services.

Rev. Rod Frohman of the Presbytery of Genesee Valley said it was in the City's economic interest to pass the resolution. - PHOTO BY KEVIN FULLER
  • PHOTO BY KEVIN FULLER
  • Rev. Rod Frohman of the Presbytery of Genesee Valley said it was in the City's economic interest to pass the resolution.

But that doesn’t provide protection for immigrants who interact with the county’s part of the criminal-justice system – courts, the county jail. Democratic County Legislator Mark Muoio has begun a push for the county to declare itself a sanctuary county.

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