President Donald Trump’s actions to possibly restrict refugee resettlement and crackdown on illegal immigration has been met with a mix of frustration, condemnation and support.
Trump this week drafted or signed executive orders to suspend refugee admissions into the United States and cut funding to “sanctuary cities” that do not help enforce federal immigration laws.
Dayton won’t be at risk of losing federal funds because it is not a sanctuary city, according to a variety of city officials and leaders, but it was a national pioneer in adopting welcoming polices toward immigrants and refugees that today are a major part of its identity.
Dayton police Chief Richard Biehl says his department will need to make some “minor” adjustments to policy after the president’s orders.
“There will be some minor (policy) changes required, but overall, our policies will remain intact,” said Dayton Police Chief Richard Biehl. “We’ve worked very, very hard to build relationships with all members of our community, including our immigrant community.”
A temporary moratorium on accepting refugees is wise because the Obama Administration has not properly vetted refugees, and the crackdown on sanctuary cities will make them safer for citizens and less hospitable for illegal aliens, said Steve Salvi, founder of Ohio Jobs & Justice PAC, which calls for restricting immigration.
“In short, President Trump’s actions will be good for the pocketbooks, safety and quality of life for both Dayton’s citizens and legal immigrants,” he said.
This week, the President signed an executive order that calls for stripping federal funding from “sanctuary cities” that willfully attempt to shield illegal immigrants from deportation.
Local community leaders and city officials insist Dayton is not a sanctuary city, because it does not obstruct the deportation of illegal immigrants.
But Ohio Jobs & Justice PAC claims Dayton meets its definition of a sanctuary city.
Butler County Sheriff Richard Jones sent a letter to Trump, Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine and Ohio Gov. John Kasich asking for their support to discontinue any funding in any Ohio city claiming to be a sanctuary city for illegal immigrants.
He said Cincinnati and Dayton in the past have approved sanctuary measures.
Trump’s order also seeks to “empower” state and local police agencies to help enforce federal immigration law through the investigation, apprehension and detention of illegal aliens.
Trump reinstated the controversial Secure Communities program, which helps U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement identify and remove criminal aliens by having local jails submit inmates’ fingerprints to compare against a national database.
Halted by the Obama administration in 2014, the program resulted in the deportation of about 480 people who were incarcerated in county jails in Butler, Clark, Greene, Miami, Montgomery and Warren counties, according to federal data.
Chief Biehl said police will not inquire about the immigration status of victims of crime.
He said officers already contact immigration authorities when they have suspects who are accused of higher-level crimes.
He said policies regarding low-level offenses will need some minor adjustment.
Many local and state police agencies do not want to enforce federal immigration laws because doing so breeds distrust in immigrant communities, which makes it harder for officers to do their jobs and get victims and witnesses to cooperate to solve crimes, said Camilo Pérez-Bustillo, director of the Human Rights Center at the University of Dayton.
Leaders in many cities across the nation are standing up and denouncing Trump’s orders because they know the important contributions immigrants and refugees make to their communities economically, culturally and many other ways, Pérez-Bustillo said.
This week, Dayton Mayor Nan Whaley issued a statement that reaffirmed the city’s pledge to be a welcoming and inclusive community.
“We have made a commitment to treat all residents equally regardless of where they come from, how they worship or who they love,” she said. “This acceptance allows our public safety officials to build stronger community ties, which leads to the increased safety to the residents of Dayton.”
In 2015, Whaley said Dayton would accept Syrian refugees if asked to help with resettlement, a position that was harshly criticized by U.S. Rep. Mike Turner, R-Dayton. Dayton does not have any Syrian refugees.
Turner said he has fought for years to prevent the Dayton community from becoming a sanctuary city.
“The current policy enforces laws already in place to keep our country safe rather than imposing new laws and regulations,” he said. “Dayton should comply with all federal laws and keep the safety of our community a top priority.”
Salvi claims Dayton’s welcoming plan is a “sham” that is really designed to protect illegal immigrants from removal.
Trump also is expected to sign an order that halts all refugee admissions for 120 days and caps the number of refugees the United States will accept for resettlement at 50,000 for fiscal year 2017.
That’s less than half the target set by the Obama administration.
In state fiscal year 2015, about 216 refugees resettled in Butler, Montgomery and Warren counties, according to data from the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services.
Trump also took action to prohibit all visitors and immigrants from seven Muslim-majority countries from entering the United States: Yemen, Iraq, Syria, Somalia, Iran, Libya and Sudan.
Iraq and Sudan are among the largest sources of refugees in this region, which includes Dayton, Beavercreek, Centerville, Fairborn, Kettering and Moraine.
Trump’s decisions display a lack of compassion and are inconsistent with Dayton’s values of inclusion, diversity and community building, said Amaha Sellassie, chair of Dayton’s Human Relations Council.
Sellassie said he’s concerned about the message Trump’s orders send to immigrant residents. But he hopes the Dayton community will step up to ensure all residents feel accepted and appreciated.
“We as a community need to explore how we can show solidarity and support for every group,” he said. “We really need to build bridges across difference … and stand with people who are feeling threatened right now.”
David Ray, spokesman with the Federation for American Immigration reform, said taking a temporary time-out in refugee admissions will allow the Trump administration to review and enhance the vetting procedures.
“We applaud the stripping of federal funds from sanctuary cities, because they not only violate federal law but also endanger the nation’s citizens,” said Ray, whose group wants to curb immigration.
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