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Birmingham passes sanctuary city resolution to Bentley’s disapproval

By Chip Brownlee
Alabama Political Reporter

The Birmingham City Council on Tuesday passed a local resolution intended to designate Alabama’s largest city as its first and only “sanctuary city” to the disapproval of many Alabama Republicans, including the Governor.

The sanctuary city resolution passed the Council with a unanimous vote, defying President Donald Trump’s crackdown on illegal immigration and joining dozens of other major US cities in providing a “sanctuary” to undocumented immigrants.

“Immigrants and refugees of all nations have contributed to the prosperity of this city as workers and taxpayers,” the resolutions reads. “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 … citizenship status.”

The resolution said the city will strive “to be a community free of hostilities and aggressions and uphold the commitment to be a community free of prejudice, bigotry and hate.”

The move isn’t just a snub to Trump, who has bashed cities like San Francisco and Chicago that have chosen to go the route of establishing sanctuary city policies. It also drew the disdain of Gov. Robert Bentley, who criticized the move Tuesday afternoon.

“President Trump has already taken decisive and necessary action to enforce our nation’s immigration laws,” Bentley said. “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.”

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The sanctuary city was a rare moment of agreement between Birmingham City Council President Johnathan Austin and Mayor William Bell, who have often been at odds with one another.

Austin said the resolution won’t bring any sweeping change to Birmingham’s policing policy but said it will solidify the position of the city and establish a “Sanctuary City Task Force” to look into future possible policy proposals. The task force will “ensure a safe, secure and welcoming community for everyone, promoting respectful relations and collaboration between community members and those providing public safety services.”

“What it does say is we are saying we are a sanctuary city. We are a city open to the public, to anyone who wants to come here and have a family,” Austin said. “America is inclusive of all people.”

Bell encouraged the Council earlier in the day to support the resolution saying that the City’s police department will not be “a second arm of the federal government in term of policing federal laws.” In terms of actual policy, Bell said the city can begin accepting any form of identification when issuing business licenses and other permits at his directive without losing federal funding.

Federal funding, Austin and Bell said, is not at risk because the resolution does not set and formal policy.

How long the sanctuary city resolution stays in place is another question. In 2015, the State Legislature overrode a minimum wage increase passed by the City Council that year.

Email Chip at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter.

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Chip Brownlee is a former political reporter, online content manager and webmaster at the Alabama Political Reporter. He is now a reporter at The Trace, a non-profit newsroom covering guns in America.

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