Amid cry of 'traitors,' Council makes Cincinnati a sanctuary city

Sharon Coolidge
The Cincinnati Enquirer

CINCINNATI — Cincinnati City Council officially cast the votes needed to make Cincinnati a sanctuary city, a decision that means city police won't enforce federal immigration laws against people here illegally.

Demonstrators gathered Monday at Cincinnati City Hall to call on officials to protect immigrants and Muslims in the city following President Donald Trump's executive order suspending immigration from seven majority-Muslim countries.

The designation is symbolic, with Mayor John Cranley vowing the city would not violate federal law but will stand with immigrants. It came after almost two hours of public comment on both sides of the issue.

More than 150 people — on both sides of the issue — packed into council chambers to speak their mind and watch the vote.

One supporter sang America the Beautiful, another said she was a young professional to whom this issue is important. And yet another called it a "humanitarian issue."

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Opponents cheered when President Trump's name was mentioned. One shouted, "Follow the law." Another speaker called council supporters "traitors."

Anderson Township Trustee Andrew Pappas, a Republican, urged the city not to jeopardize federal funding, which Trump has threatened to pull from communities designated as sanctuary cities.

Cranley said this action doesn't do that.

Passions ran high, prompting Cranley to ask a police officer to stay. Other officers arrived a short time later. Ultimately, they weren't needed.

Council voted 6-2 for the resolution, which calls for Cincinnati to be "welcoming and inclusive city for all immigrants to live, work or visit."

Council Republicans Charlie Winburn and Amy Murray were against the idea. Winburn suggested taking the words "sanctuary city" out of the resolution, an idea that was rejected. Christopher Smitherman, an independent, was excused from the meeting. He told The Enquirer Tuesday he had planned to abstain.

"What we are doing is standing with immigrants," said Cranley, who made the announcement Monday. "We have a very good vetting system in this country."

Cincinnati City Hall chambers during sanctuary city vote.

The declaration came hand-in-hand with a resolution put forward by Councilman Wendell Young.

"Cincinnati has a history of being a sanctuary for over 200 years; the prime example is the Underground Railroad," Young said. "We want to build on history we already made."

His fellow Democrats agreed.

"This is about freedom," Councilman P.G. Sittenfeld said.

"I regret we even need this legislation," Councilwoman Yvette Simpson said. "This is about fear. This is about hate. I'm done with it. I'm ready to be a sanctuary city."

"This is not a law we're passing, this is symbolic," Councilman Chris Seelbach said. "It is incredibly important we identify as a sanctuary city."

To opponents he added, "When you say hate-filled things, that we have our own to take care of, shame on you. This is about human beings."

"I'm voting for inclusion," he said. "I am voting against exclusion."

Follow Sharon Coolidge on Twitter: @SharonCoolidge