Could any Northeast Ohio "sanctuary cities" lose federal funding?

Posted at 6:20 PM, Nov 16, 2016
and last updated 2016-11-16 23:30:16-05

While there’s no legal definition of “sanctuary cities,” the cities of Lorain and Oberlin have been called informal havens because of their community policing policies that discourage regular inquiries about the immigration statuses of witnesses or victims of a crime. 

According to President-elect Donald Trump’s plan for the first 100 days in office, he plans to “cancel all federal funding to sanctuary cities.” He did not go into details as to which cities would qualify. 

Lorain and Oberlin appear on a list of more than 400 sanctuary cities and counties compiled by the Ohio Jobs & Justice PAC, founded by Bedford-resident Steve Salvi. 

Salvi told News 5 that while nearly 100 cities consider themselves formal sanctuary cities, hundreds more have an informal distinction. 

“Yet it’s a wink and a nod and they still protect people who are in the country illegally from contact with the Department of Homeland Security,” he said. 

Salvi points to the cities’ written policies when describing both Lorain and Oberlin as sanctuary cities. 

Although neither Lorain or Oberlin use the term when describing their community policing policies. 

A 2009 Oberlin Resolution guaranteed that “no city services shall be denied on the bases of citizenship,” including police and fire protection. 

The resolution also states that “it shall be the general practice of the City of Oberlin not to inquire about the immigration status of crime victims, witnesses or others who call or approach City staff seeking assistance.” 

Lt. Michael McClosky said the policy takes a “human approach.” 

“Nobody should be afraid to call the police department when they need help, regardless of their immigration status,” Lt. McClosky told News 5.  

According to a 2013 Immigration Enforcement Directive from the Lorain Police department, officers “shall not undertake immigration-related investigations and seal not routinely inquire into the specific immigration status of any person(s) encountered during normal police operations.” 

But the policy requires officers to inform DHS-ICE to arrest any immigrant or foreign national who has committed a range of violent felonies, terrorism, human trafficking, drug, or street gang offenses. 

Lorain Police Chief Cel Rivera told News 5 that he wants victims and witnesses to feel comfortable reporting a crime.  

“But it would not stop us from informing the government about an individual who has committed a serious offense,” Chief Rivera said. 

Salvi said all 400 cities on his list are in violation of federal law and should Trump proceed with his plans to cut all federal dollars it could cost sanctuary cities a billion of dollar nationwide. HE said that would also likely require congressional cooperation as the president lost his power to impound most federal funds since legislation passed in 1974.

Both Chief Rivera and Lt. McClosky said that if their policies were challenged it would be up to the city governments to address the matter.