Diversity and tolerance are clearly important in any college town, and Kent is no exception. It’s a community that prides itself on welcoming anyone who wishes to learn, work or play regardless of the color of their skin, origin or point of view.
So we can understand the frustration of many in Kent with President Trump’s crackdown on both legal and illegal immigration, including threats to cut fundings to cities which have adopted a "Sanctuary City" approach to essentially ignore federal immigration authorities.
These cities have opted against turning over non-violent offenders police come across, including cases similar to the Painesville mom of four cited for driving without a license and being deported after 17 years in the United States. While technically an illegal resident, this mother had otherwise lived here without incident and raised a family.
One would surmise many Kent voters would be upset by this mother’s story and thus motivated to support the Sanctuary City referendum a local group has placed on the Nov. 7 ballot.
We hope that’s not the case. In fact, we strongly urge voters to reject this poorly crafted proposal we’re convinced will have exactly the opposite effect on immigration issues in Kent.
Kent’s sanctuary city issue was put on the ballot via an initiative petition circulated by Kent Citizens for Democracy, which collected enough signatures to legally force City Council to place the issue before voters. But in an unusual move, council amended the ballot language to make it clear City Council did not endorse the issue.
We agree with council, which has already taken several steps this year to show Kent supports diversity and inclusion, including the fledgling "One Kent" initiative.
If Kent voters approve the Sanctuary City measure, we’re convinced several bad things could happen, including attracting more federal agents here looking for illegal immigrants, a reality that could scare people away. It’s also not clear if there are enough illegal aliens living locally for this measure to make a difference and risk losing federal funding. Nor would it offer any protection to someone who leaves the city’s borders and gets pulled over, like the Painesville mother.
There are many legal questions, too, including what we consider a landmark question. Can the citizens of a community compel their elected and appointed leaders to break federal law?
Please understand we’re all for local control on most issues. But it’s pretty clear immigration issues are covered by federal law whether Kent residents agree with the current president or not.
Still, we appreciate the sentiment behind this proposal as expressed by Vivien Sandlund, of Kent Citizens for Democracy: "The purpose of it is to encourage people who may be undocumented to feel free and safe to call the police if they need to, without fear of being deported for reporting a crime."
This issue won’t accomplish that goal. In fact, it will do just the opposite.