City Council Votes to Resist Trump’s Immigration Order

Wednesday, February 1, 2017, 8:53 am
Alice Dreger

Above: the gathering at The Rock last night.

Following last night’s gathering of about 500 people at a “No Ban, No Wall” demonstration on MSU’s campus as organized by the Muslim Students’ Association, East Lansing’s City Council voted to refuse to cooperate with President Donald Trump’s orders on the treatment of refugees and immigrants from seven majority-Muslim nations.

Council unanimously passed a resolution “unequivocally reaffirm[ing] the City of East Lansing’s longstanding policy of refusal to participate with federal authorities in the widespread and unjust violation of the rights of individuals based on religion, national origin, immigrant or refugee status.”

The resolution also stated that East Lansing “will continue to be a safe haven for those immigrants and refugees yearning to be free and provide sanctuary to those persons.” Council voted explicitly to “resist every effort by the federal government to implement President Trump’s executive order within its borders.”

Every Councilmember took the opportunity to speak in favor of the resolution.

Councilmember Erik Altmann, who had spoken earlier at the MSU gathering, told those at Council, “We are in the fight of our lives and we have to figure out how to stay energetic.” He said, “It helps that we are all in like company. That makes a huge difference.”

Councilmember Shanna Draheim called the resolution “well-crafted and beautifully written” and said it “absolutely captures the passion I feel about living in East Lansing” in terms of its support of diversity.

Mayor Pro Tem Ruth Beier said that she was looking forward to continuing to work region-wide with others “against this nationalistic, ridiculous kind of thing coming from the President.” She mentioned that she had been at a meeting in Lansing the day before that brought together government officials from around the area, people from the Christian and Jewish communities, workers in refugee services, and others all looking to support immigrants and refugees.

Councilmember Susan Woods said that “it is astounding that this happening to our country” and added, “It’s all stun and awe but the awe is disgust.” She said the resolution “represents how I feel.”

Mayor Mark Meadows, read the resolution he had drafted aloud and also read from the famous inscription on the base of the Statue of Liberty. He also spoke specifically to an executive order by Trump which threatens “sanctuary cities” with loss of federal funding. According to Meadows and others, Trump’s order is unconstitutional because it attempts to essentially circumvent the powers of Congress.

Meadows said that East Lansing had not voted to call itself a sanctuary city but that Trump’s order had essentially defined East Lansing as such. He said the order tried to force cities to “do the bidding” of the Immigration and Naturalization Service. But, he said, besides being unconstitutional because “the President does not have the power to legislate,” the rule made no provision for penalties, so it was effectively toothless.

Reading from a statement by the National League of Cities, Meadows called the order an unfunded mandate that would jeopardize the effectiveness of local law enforcement efforts by impeding improvements in police-community relations and by making some people afraid to report crimes and access services.

Asked about the proposed resolution earlier in the day, Meadows told ELi by email, “We will not participate in the exercise of that federal law and will take whatever steps necessary to resist any attempt to force us to.”

Asked if he is willing to risk federal funding for this, Meadows told ELi he is: “I believe the principle involved in resisting the order is important enough to risk those funds.” But, he added, “I also believe the statute upon which it is based and the President's [Executive Order] in relation to it are unconstitutional. So it is not really that big a risk.”

According to Meadows, the resolution does not impact MSU’s campus because the City does not have jurisdiction over campus.

Two citizens came to Council to speak enthusiastically in favor of the resolution, and no one spoke against. Several people in attendance literally applauded Council’s work on the resolution.