Cleveland Heights becomes a 'Welcoming City'

At its Feb. 6 meeting, Cleveland Heights City Council declared the city to be a “Welcoming City” by a 6-1 vote on Resolution 15-2017.

Council members considered whether to declare Cleveland Heights a “Sanctuary City” but decided, instead, to declare it a Welcoming City.

In a press release, the city stated, “There had been some discussion regarding the concept of Sanctuary City. After further research, it was determined that Sanctuary City does not have set definitions and has no official government designation. Recent announcements that federal funds could possibly be withheld from these cities made Council look for other alternatives. The goal was to affirm a designation that would uphold the spirit of Cleveland Heights without jeopardizing in any way the financial strength of the City.”

Resolution 15-2017 expresses council’s strong objections to President Donald Trump’s Executive Order, which temporarily banned entry into the United States of immigrants from seven Muslim-majority countries and refugees from around the world. The resolution states that the ban is “unlawful and un-American,” and declares the city a “Welcoming City.”

Council Member Mary Dunbar cast the dissenting vote. She stated that council had not had a chance to discuss the legislation in Council Chambers. “I have no idea whether it is unlawful or not,” she said. “I think that is why it is going to court right now so I can’t support it as written. I am more than happy to make us a welcoming community because I think we are already, but this goes beyond that and it just goes a little too far for me, frankly.”

Council Member Kahlil Seren voted “yes,” saying that he viewed it as “a step in the right direction.” He said that he would hold a Public Safety and Health Committee meeting to investigate “exactly what it means to be a Sanctuary City for Cleveland Heights.” Among other topics, the meeting would examine the facts about what it means to be a Sanctuary City, what a violation of U.S. Code 1373 (communication between government agencies and the Immigration and Naturalization Service) looks like, and what actual law enforcements practices are and how they interface with federal authorities. Originally scheduled for Feb. 15, the meeting will be held at 6:30 p.m. on Feb. 23 in Council Chambers at Cleveland Heights City Hall.

Several residents spoke at the beginning of the meeting, both for and against the city becoming a Sanctuary City, with some recommending Welcoming City status.

Council members stated that several community members and religious leaders had contacted them regarding their concerns about the recent Executive Order.

The city's press release stated, “Cleveland Heights has a long history of supporting racial and religious diversity and as a community welcoming people from all over the world. The city has worked over the years with Jewish Family Services and US Together Inc. in the resettling of refugees from many different countries into our community. That plus the proximity to employees from the hospitals and University Circle has contributed to the diversity of the city.”

A “Welcoming City” designation means that a city has become part of the Welcoming America movement that is guided by the principles of inclusion and creating communities that prosper because everyone feels welcome, including immigrants and refugees. The nonprofit Welcoming America organization counts more than 100 communities in its network and offers programming and practices that support diversity. In its press release, the city stated that “being a ‘Welcoming City’ is consistent with the goal of Cleveland Heights to be an open integrated and diverse community.”

See a copy of the resolution on the city’s website.

Deanna Bremer Fisher

Deanna Bremer Fisher is executive director of FutureHeights and publisher of the Heights Observer.

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Volume 10, Issue 4, Posted 4:57 PM, 02.20.2017