Birmingham City Council passes sanctuary city resolution

Birmingham becomes a welcoming city
Published: Jan. 31, 2017 at 5:54 PM CST|Updated: Jan. 31, 2017 at 11:27 PM CST
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BIRMINGHAM, AL (WBRC) - Tuesday morning, Birmingham William Mayor Bell held a press conference with community leaders to name Birmingham a "welcoming city."

He named severalways for the city to be inclusive and welcoming to citizens, regardless of immigration status.

"Every individual who resides, works, plays or come through the city will know they are welcome and have no fear in interacting with their municipal government in any way," Bell said.

Bell says this policy will address all aspects of city services as it applies to residents, regardless of immigration status.

Bell said Birmingham police would not be an enforcement arm of the federal government when it comes to immigration and would open the policy for granting business licenses by not requiring proof of citizenship.

Birmingham joins a growing number of cities adopting a "welcoming cities" policy like Atlanta, Baltimore and Seattle.

Shortly after Bell's announcement, the Birmingham City Council passed a resolution in support of making the city a sanctuary city.

The decision comes after several residents spoke in support of the resolution.

Related: The difference between a sanctuary city and a welcoming city

The resolution marks the council taking a position on immigration issues following last week's Executive Order issued by President Donald Trump that puts a temporary travel ban on citizens traveling from seven Muslim-majority nations to the U.S.

Though the resolution passed, it does not create policy and is not law in the city, only a statement of support.

The Beason Hammon Act, also known as HB56, prohibits cities from setting policies that conflict with federal immigration law or state law. During the council meeting, city lawyers informed the council that violating the law could bring criminal and civil penalties
and the loss of federal and state funding.

"The Council of the City of Birmingham shall exercise its power to ensure the equal protection, treatment, and representation of all persons without discrimination including, but not limited to, age, citizenship status, color, gender identity  or expression, marital status, mental disability, national origin, physical disability, race, religion, religious observance, sexual orientation, and source or level of income..." the resolution reads.

The city also plans to set up a task force "to ensure a safe, secure and welcoming community for everyone, promoting respectful relations and collaboration between community members and those providing public safety services."

Read the rest of the resolution below:

A large group of protestors gathered over the weekend at Birmingham-Shuttlesworth International Airport to speak out against the ban.

The resolution's passing was followed by a round of applause in the council chambers, according to the Birmingham City Council Twitter account.

Governor Robert Bentley has responded to the resolution, saying the state will not support sanctuary cities.

"President Trump has already taken decisive and necessary action to enforce our nation's immigration laws," Governor Bentley said in a statement. "Alabama will not support sanctuary cities or institutions that harbor or shelter illegal immigrants, and are in clear violation of the laws of the nation."

Birmingham City Council President Johnathan Austin shared his own response after hearing from Bentley.

"While the council did not pass any law in conflict with the state or federal government today, the governor has gone on record to say what the citizens of Birmingham already know to be true," Austin said. "He (Bentley) has supported laws that have hurt Birmingham and not helped them."

Austin said he was referring to legislative efforts to change the Birmingham Water Works Board, Mayor Council Act and a city-passed minimum wage increase.

While clergy and advocacy groups praised the mayor's adoption of a "welcoming city" policy and hundreds cheered the council's passage of the sanctuary city resolution, critics responded with hundreds of angry calls and emails to city hall throughout the day.

The city said it appeared those responding were not Birmingham residents.

The Birmingham Police Department released this statement regarding the recent immigration issues.

The Birmingham Police Department's number one priority is reducing violent crime so we welcome everyone to partner with this police department regardless of legal status. This department operates on the principles of community policing and the stated purpose of partnering with all of our citizens. Ultimately, the goal is for everyone to feel safe in our city without the presence of fear of being targeted because of national origin or immigration status. Enforcement of federal immigration laws is not a priority of this department. We had six ICE holds from 2012 to 2015 and none in 2016.

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