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Mar 2017

Diversity and Immigration; Federal Actions and Local Responses

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It is pretty difficult these days to turn on the television, peruse a news source, or skim your social media without some mention of the federal government’s actions. Two executive orders about immigration, issued at the end of January, received a lot of attention.  The first order covered the administration’s policies and approaches to federal immigration law; including the defunding of local governments that serve as “sanctuary” cities or counties that do not detain undocumented immigrants for the federal government should they be held by local authorities.  The second order, issued two days later, prevented individuals from seven countries from traveling into the United States.  The administration argued their actions are necessary for the nation’s security.  Yet many companies, governmental entities, and individuals voiced concerns over the intent and potential consequences of the orders.

So what does this mean for local governments across the country?  While the federal government can enact laws and directives, state and local governments must decide how or if the provisions apply to them.  Curious to see how local governments responded to the federal government’s actions, we at Voterheads combed our agenda database to get a feel for how cities and counties are reacting.

Searching our database for terms related to diversity and immigration, 32 local governments considered motions associated with these topics, often in explicit reference to the federal government’s actions.  Of the 32 local governments, 24 considered issuing statements or developing governmental divisions in support of their diverse communities, with two cities yet to face a final vote.  The majority issued resolutions affirming their identity as welcoming and diverse areas, asserting that they did not discriminate against anyone living within their borders for their gender, ethnicity, race, country of origin, refugee or immigrant status, religion, political affiliation, economic status, sexual orientation, and/or disability.  Salinas, CA was the only city to consider, but not pass, a resolution affirming the city’s commitment to the fair treatment of immigrants.


Actual local resolution opposing refugee ban – CITY OF AKRON, OHIO COUNCIL AGENDA


Four of the 24 governments put forward specific directives that created new programs tasked with aiding immigrants and refugees.  The city of Pittsburgh debated and unanimously passed a resolution forming an Office of Multicultural Affairs.  Minneapolis also adopted resolutions establishing a Sanctuary City Task Force and committing the city to working with outside organizations to ensure the safety of immigrants, no matter their official status.  Additionally, the Los Angeles City Council backed a program to assist detainees at the Los Angeles airport, and San Francisco voted to set aside revenue to support immigrants facing deportation.

Five of the 32 local entities considered motions to openly condemn or legally contend the federal government’s actions.  Both Austin, TX and Berkeley, CA passed resolutions denouncing the travel ban.  Berkeley also specifically rebuked the building of a wall along the southern border of the United States.  New York City and Portland, OR voted to allow their cities to sign any amicus briefs against federal immigration efforts and in support of fair immigrant treatment in the future.  Finally, Oakland, CA passed a resolution in support of a proposed statewide law which prevents state and local funds from being used to implement the federal immigration initiatives.

Finally, three of the 32 local governments considered measures in support of the federal government’s immigration actions.  Worcester, MA, Modoc County, CA, and Siskiyou County, CA all voted upon measures that explicitly stated they would not go against federal laws by serving as sanctuary cities or counties. Members of the public voiced their opinions on the matter in both the Worcester and Siskiyou meetings.  In the end Worcester’s measures failed by a vote of 9-2.  In contrast both Modoc and Siskiyou counties voted to support of the federal immigration initiatives, by votes of 5-0 and 4-1, respectively.

Voterheads seeks to encourage people to be more aware of, and active in, their local government.  One way our organization hopes to further this mission is by showing our members how different levels of government interact, coordinate, and even conflict with one another.  America’s overall system of government can seem confusing with its many levels, but it is those levels that allow us to at least try and represent everyone within our borders as effectively as possible.  The example of the new administration’s immigration policies, and the reactions to them by local governments, clearly highlights this type of interaction.

Want to know more about immigration and public safety in your community?  Then be sure to sign on to Voterheads and add these topics to your account.  Who knows, your city could consider similar motions this week!

References & Actual Recent Agendas:

Albuquerque, NM
Austin, TX
Berkeley, CA
Buffalo, NY
Los Angeles, CA
Modoc County, CA
Monterey, CA
Newton, MA
New York, NY
Oakland, CA
Portland, OR
Rochester, NY
Salinas, CA
San Francisco, CA
San Mateo, CA
Santa Clara County, CA
Santa Cruz, CA
Siskiyou Co, CA
St. Louis, MO
St. Petersburg, FL



Maria McCollester on EmailMaria McCollester on Linkedin
Maria McCollester
Maria McCollester
Politcal Scientist at Voterheads
Maria is an American government professional and scholar seeking to apply research and writing skills to the development of public policy. She recently received her Ph.D. from Boston College where she's won some seriously cool awards (See her LinkedIn profile).

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Maria is an American government professional and scholar seeking to apply research and writing skills to the development of public policy. She recently received her Ph.D. from Boston College where she's won some seriously cool awards (See her LinkedIn profile).


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