Ungar's remark muddies the waters

To the Editor:

At its April 2 meeting, Cleveland Heights City Council unanimously approved the creation of an Immigration Task Force. The measure was proposed by Mayor Carol Roe, in response to issues raised by the "civil immigration enforcement" legislation introduced last fall by Council Member Kahlil Seren. Seren’s ordinance would lay out what police and other city officials can and cannot do regarding undocumented immigrants. Those violating its strictures could be charged with a misdemeanor.

City Manager Tanisha Briley and Police Chief Annette Mecklenburg objected to that part of the legislation, and also preferred that the guidelines take the form of a departmental policy, rather than carry the force of law. Seren offered to remove the section criminalizing certain police actions.  

As council prepared to vote, Council Member Michael Ungar spoke up. He would vote for the legislation creating the task force, he said, because Cleveland Heights is a Welcoming City, and he values all that immigrants bring to it; however, he noted, the issue at hand “was born of the notion that our police department was doing something wrong.” He reiterated this remark in an interview with Thomas Jewell of Cleveland.com.  

I have read Seren’s proposed legislation and attended the two committee meetings where it was discussed. No one—neither Seren nor community members speaking for the ordinance—ever said or implied that members of the Cleveland Heights Police Department had done anything legally or morally wrong.   

The legislation does address the fact that local law enforcement agencies face increasing pressure to cooperate with the inhumane and unconstitutional activities of the federal  Immigration and Customs Enforcement, and Customs and Border Patrol. Its aim is to forestall potential problems. I hope the Immigration Task Force will keep this concern in mind during its deliberations.  

Finally, I am perplexed as to why Ungar would say something so patently false and potentially divisive. His comments serve only to muddy the waters and divert attention from a critical issue facing us as a nation and a city.

Deborah Van Kleef

Deborah Van Kleef
Cleveland Heights

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Volume 11, Issue 5, Posted 4:28 PM, 04.30.2018