While the future of Pres. Donald Trump’s executive order to severely limit the number of people from some Muslim-majority countries is played out in the courts and out in the streets filled with protesters, Takoma Park stands strong in its decades-old decision to be a sanctuary city.
“Nothing is changing,” said Mayor Kate Stewart.
In 1985, Takoma Park adopted an ordinance that prohibits its police and other city employees from asking residents about their citizenship or immigration status. The ordinance also bars City officials from cooperating in the enforcement of immigration laws that could lead to the deportation of its residents.
The ordinance was adopted during El Salvador’s civil war and was directed at Salvadoran and Guatemalan refugees. Now refugees are trying to come to America from many more countries.
They are welcome in Takoma Park, even if that means the City will lose federal funding, as Trump has threatened, Stewart said.
Takoma Park receives federal funds in the form of community development block grants. Stewart estimated that the City receives $90,000 a year to assist low and moderate income residents and for after-school programs and to keep its food pantries stocked.
The City also has received federal money from the Department of Justice to purchase bullet proof vests for its police officers, she said.
While Stewart doesn’t expect any action against sanctuary cities in the short term, noting that the issue most likely will be worked out in the courts, she said that the city council already is looking at ways “to make sure are no disruptions in services.”
Stewart stressed, “There has been no discussion with council to undue our policy.”
Police Chief Alan Goldberg issued a statement late last year explaining that his department is “apolitical and will continue to build and maintain our bridges with the community.”
The Constitution prohibits a national police force, he noted in the statement. “The responsibility for protecting and serving the public is a local and state responsibility,” Goldberg said in his statement, noting that his department “will continue to maintain our relationships with all members of our community.”
Other communities throughout the County have expressed sympathy and support for refugees but none have taken the step to become a sanctuary city.
The Jewish Community Relations Council has spoken out against Trump’s executive order. In a statement issued last week, it noted that the order “betrays the Jewish and American values we cherish. This shouldn’t be a partisan or political issue, welcoming refugees is part of what has truly made America great.”
The statement continued, “The overwhelming majority of refugees seeking entry to the United States are innocent bystanders whose lives have been uprooted by conflict in the Middle East and we, as Americans and as global leaders, must find a way to protect them” while continuing to use “the already stringent background checks now being performed on every refugee who seeks entry to the United States.”