GRANOLAPARK • BY GILBERT
Donald Trump’s fat little knuckles float above Takoma Park, threatening to descend. But city officials are not about to go under them without a fight.
“We still are a sanctuary city!” said a defiant mayor Kate Stewart at the January 25 regular city council meeting.
Punishing sanctuary cities is high on the new president’s agenda. Takoma Park has been a sanctuary city since 1985.
The Donald issued two executive orders earlier January 25 addressing immigration and sanctuary cities. The Executive Order: Enhancing Public Safety in the Interior of the United States says that sanctuary jurisdictions “are not eligible to receive Federal grants, except as deemed necessary for law enforcement purposes.”
City manager Suzanne Ludlow has stated in recent weeks that the city does not get much in direct federal aid, so currently this looks like a small threat, smaller than Trump’s hands.
However the executive order also says the U.S. Attorney General “shall take appropriate enforcement action against any entity that … has in effect a statute, policy, or practice that prevents or hinders the enforcement of Federal law.”
The particular law cited is the U.S. Code provision that bans all government officials, including city officials, from prohibiting the exchange of immigration status information.
According to the city’s recent statement, Takoma Park’s sanctuary ordinance “prohibits city police and other city employees from asking Takoma Park residents about their citizenship or immigration status. It also prohibits them from cooperating in the enforcement of federal immigration laws that could lead to the deportation of residents.”
What that “appropriate enforcement action” would be is not described in the executive order. There is a section that imposed civil fines on immigrants and “those who facilitate their presence.” This probably means employers and landlords, not government officials.
Both executive orders “empower State and local law enforcement agencies across the country to perform the functions of an immigration officer.” The administration aims to do this through federal-state agreements forged between the feds and state governors. Trump’s strong-arm men are likely to get full cooperation from Maryland’s Republican governor Larry Hogan.
However the executive order also says that it has to be carried out “to the extent permitted by law, and with the consent of State or local officials.”
That looks like a huge loophole. The city is not likely to consent, and it will point out the local law. City manager Ludlow said she has not heard from any administration officials.
By the way, Montgomery County is a sanctuary county. The city is not alone in this. According to city manager Ludlow there are around 250 U.S. sanctuary jurisdictions. They represent a spectrum of “sanctuary-ness,” said city manager Suzanne Ludlow at the Takoma Park city council meeting January 25. The executive order ignores the differences, she said.
We wonder what Governor Hogan is thinking right now. His state is solidly Democratic – except when one-party rule and a lackluster gubernatorial candidate become too much to stomach. He’s seen the massive street protests on Trumps’ Day 2. He knows the state’s progressive fire-in-the-belly is stoked. With the 2018 gubernatorial race marching up the calendar at him he might not want to get too friendly with Trump. If there’s Trump lipstick on Hogan’s collar, the Democrats will make it the main campaign issue. And if there isn’t any, they’ll be trying to paint it on.
Mayor Stewart said news media, including the BBC, had contacted her throughout the day about the city’s sanctuary status.
She noted that an upcoming public forum “Sanctuary City – Then and Now” will be held Feb 4, from 3 – 6 p.m. at the city Community Center, 7500 Maple Ave., Takoma Park, MD.
The Takoma Park Mobilization Public Meeting January 28 will also address sanctuary protections and immigrant rights. Gustavo Torres, CASA de Maryland director will be the guest speaker. The meeting is: January 28, 2017, 4 p.m. at Piney Branch Elementary School, 7510 Maple Ave, Takoma Park.
The actual meeting news
The city council meeting January 25 had other subjects on the agenda. Not a whole lot, the meeting lasted only about an hour. We barely got through one bottle of vodka.
Changing the election date, or “election synchronization” as they call it, continues to climb the ladder toward implementation in 2018.
It would change the city’s election year and date to that of general elections. As it is now, the city votes in off-years and has its own election cycle, special voting laws and one voting location.
To make the change, the city – and the city Board of Election – has had a quick and steep climb. Each rung of the ladder represents an accomplishment: a change in the city charter, approval from the county BOE, approval from the state, meeting several legal deadlines and so forth.
Marilyn Abbott city Board of Election chair reported on progress January 25. She said the county is willing to go along with holding joint elections, as long as they don’t have to pay for anything extra.
Elections must be joint because the city’s unique voting laws don’t match the state’s. The city’s unique laws allow: 16- 17-year-olds, non-citizens and felons to vote, election-day voter registration and instant runoff voting. So there must be two ballots and two ballot boxes in each of Takoma Park’s three precinct polling places.
One citizen came to the meeting to comment. Jeffrey Noel-Nosbaum, former city council candidate and former BOE member asked the council to put the issue on the ballot again.
As an advisory ballot question it passed handily in 2015. Noel-Nosbaum said that in 2015 voters had little idea of the complexities required to synchronize: such as having to vote twice and having multiple polling locations rather than one, as of now. There are also issues such as increased costs, he said.
The council did not look inclined to put it on the 2017 ballot. As one of them said last week the 2015 ballot question passed “overwhelming” number of votes.
One cost and potential problem is hiring election judges. The city will need three times as many, at three times the cost, and they will need them on the same day the county needs election judges. There aren’t that many election judges.
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