Mayor, others could face charges if passed

Associated Press, WCPO Staff
4:10 PM, Feb 6, 2017
5:47 PM, Feb 6, 2017

CINCINNATI -- Cincinnati and state officials would be prohibited from adopting "sanctuary city" protections for undocumented immigrants and held criminally liable for any crimes committed by such immigrants under a proposal headed to Ohio's legislature.

A bill announced Monday by Ohio Treasurer Josh Mandel and State Rep. Candice Keller, R-Middletown, would define and outlaw sanctuary jurisdictions and declare sanctuary policies contrary to federal law and state interests.

Cincinnati's City Council symbolically declared Cincinnati a "sanctuary city" on Feb. 1. The resolution, passed by a 6-2 vote, expresses officials' desire "to be a welcoming and inclusive city for all immigrants to live, work or visit." The declaration of Cincinnati's status as a "sanctuary city" came two days after Mayor John Cranley claimed Cincinnati "has been for years, and will remain, a 'sanctuary city.'"

Mandel's office said he believes Cranley "is violating federal law and deliberately obstructing immigration enforcement by restricting interaction with federal immigration agencies and shielding illegal aliens from detection."

"Treasurer Mandel and Representative Kellerís proposed legislation would address this issue by prohibiting sanctuary cities in Ohio and prohibiting any local jurisdiction from deliberately obstructing immigration enforcement," a statement from his office said.

Cranley called Mandel's claims "a blatant lie" and an attack on the First Amendment.

"We have not and will not violate federal laws," the mayor said in a statement. "Mandelís proposal is a straw man for his political ambitions, demonizing refugees fleeing oppression in the process. We are standing with refugees and disagreeing with President Trumpís executive orders, which is our First Amendment right to do. Mandelís attempt to jail people who disagree with the President is an outrageous attack on the First Amendment."

Mandel is running for U.S. Senate and said he'd make the prohibition a priority. His campaign sent out a fundraising email highlighting the legislation a few hours after his state office announced it.

The term "sanctuary city" has no legal definition, but it's often a label used for cities that refuse to turn over individuals to Immigration and Customs Enforcement, or cities that just have welcoming resources or policies in place for immigrants.

The council's resolution indicated plans to not respond to ICE detainer requests and pointed to the Metropolitan Area Religious Coalition of Cincinnati's non-government ID program as examples of Cincinnati's "sanctuary city" practices.

However, Hamilton County Sheriff Jim Neil said he'd continue continue to detain undocumented inmates at the request of federal immigration authorities. Cincinnati has no jail of its own, so its inmates are held at the Downtown jail Neil's office operates.

If the measure became law, it could mean criminal charges for Cranley and any other backers of "sanctuary cities" if a crime were committed by an unauthorized immigrant in the city.