By Oluwatomike Adeboyejo
On Feb. 14, the city of Annapolis passed a bill that many believe was the first step toward becoming a sanctuary city.
Six city officials favored the bill. Republican Mayor Mike Pantelides and Republican Alderman Fred Paone voted against the bill. Democrat Alderwoman Rhonda Pindell Charles withheld her vote.
The non-discrimination bill protects undocumented immigrants from being denied city benefits. It also prohibits the discrimination of immigrants by city officials based on their immigration status.
However, the bill does not prohibit city officials from inquiring about the legal status of immigrants if the federal government legally requires it.
Though this clause is stated, many believe itl can still be detrimental to the city.
“The concern with the legislation is that it does have language from [the] San Francisco bill, which is a sanctuary city,” said Rhonda Wardlaw, the chief communications officer for the mayor’s office.
If the federal government interprets the bill as a sanctuary bill, the city would risk losing over $2 million in federal grants, Wardlaw said.
The mayor voted against the bill because many interpreted it as Annapolis becoming a sanctuary city, according to Wardlaw.
Because the bill is a duplicative of federal law, it holds no power. By law, the local government cannot surpass the federal government; therefore, the bill does not create new measures to ensure the security of immigrants in Annapolis.
In attempt to remove the notion of Annapolis becoming a sanctuary city, Pantelides added an amendment to the bill to discredit this idea. The council did not vote to add the amendment.
“For whatever reason council would not support the fact his amendment that said that this does not make Annapolis a sanctuary city,” said Wardlaw. “That concerned the mayor to say maybe [council is] considering taking one more step in which Annapolis will be a sanctuary city.”
However, Democrat Alderman Ross H. Arnett III, a sponsor of the bill, supported it because the purpose was to send the message that Annapolis intended to protect the community. He said the council wants to alleviate fear of government within communities.
“The Legislation accomplish the goal of saying that we want people no matter their status to be treated safely and dearly,” Arnett said.
The legislation was created to symbolize the stance Annapolis took on protecting the rights of the people within their community. The legislation was created before the Trump administration took office. The council saw the need for it within their community during President Obama’s term because of the immense deportation of immigrants.
Annapolis council members’ decision to pass the bill resembles the actions of other major cities such as Los Angeles, San Francisco and Washington, D.C. Many cities across the nation are passing legislation that amplifies their stance regarding the current immigration reform.
Featured Photo Credit: Courtesy of WikiCommons.
Oluwatomike Adeboyejo is a junior journalism major and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.