Indiana, PA - Indiana County

INDIANA BOROUGH: Officials adopt 'welcoming' resolution

by on February 22, 2017 10:59 AM
Indiana, PA

Indiana Borough council Tuesday passed a resolution emphasizing that the borough is a welcoming community, that Indiana officials consider enforcement of immigration law a federal responsibility and reaffirming that Indiana police officers will not question victims or witnesses about their immigration status.

The resolution does not include the term “sanctuary.” That word raised concerns for some municipal officials across the nation after President Donald Trump issued a temporary travel and immigration ban targeting seven majority-Muslim countries and stating that some federal funding might be denied to sanctuary cities that choose not to cooperate with federal efforts to deport people living in America without legal permission.

Some sanctuary municipalities in America have adopted a policy of protecting people who have entered the country illegally by forbidding their police officers or municipal employees to inquire about a person’s immigration status.

Indiana council President Peter Broad said council passed the resolution to reassure immigrants living in Indiana, permanently or temporarily, “that we are on their side.”

Broad said there have been incidents of immigrants being harassed and those people should notify borough officials if they feel threatened.

Several people asked council at its Feb. 7 meeting to go on record in some way and assert that Indiana Borough is a welcoming community that will protect immigrants.

The resolution passed Tuesday builds upon a resolution council passed in June 2016 supporting passage of an amendment to the Pennsylvania Fairness Act and opposing the legality of firing or denying someone employment, housing or business services on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity or expression.

The resolution passed Tuesday states that Indiana “will continue to welcome all persons, students and community members regardless of race, creed, color, sex, sexual orientation, gender, gender identity or expression, ethnicity, religion, disability status, genetic information, protected veteran status, military service, nationality, national origin or citizenship status, and support policies that do the same …”

The resolution further states that “all people present in the Borough of Indiana are members of the Indiana community and will be treated fairly and equitably” and that council “believes that enforcing immigration law is a federal responsibility and it is not the responsibility of local officials … that the Indiana Borough council believes that entangling local officials in enforcing immigration law undermines the Indiana Borough council’s commitment to nondiscrimination, public safety and the equal provision of local services … that the Indiana Borough council opposes any immigration policies at the local, state and federal level that seek to register or track individuals based on religion, ethnicity, national origin, nationality or citizenship as a law enforcement tool.”

The resolution also states that “the Indiana Borough council will not voluntarily assist in any efforts by the federal government to apprehend, detain or deport community members, except as may be required by law … that the Indiana Borough council supports the practice of the Indiana Borough Police Department that officers will not ask victims or witnesses about immigration status. To the extent the borough obtains such information the borough will not disclose the information to any other agency without the consent of the affected member, except as may be required by law.”

The resolution ends with the pledge that “Indiana Borough will continue to engage in partnerships and educational endeavors with community and other local partners to further the goals expressed in Resolution 2016-R5 (the resolution passed last June supporting nondiscrimination in the Pennsylvania Fairness Act).”

Broad and other council members acknowledged that the resolution is a statement of council’s resolve and is not legally binding.

 


Event on civil rights offered

The Pittsburgh chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations will host a “Know Your Civil Rights and Immigration Rights” event March 4 at the Islamic Center of Indiana, 2835 West Pike. The event will begin at 1 p.m.

Attorneys will address topics such as immigrants’ rights while traveling, while on a student visa and when encountering a law enforcement officer.

The speakers will include Sara Burhan Abdullah, an attorney who practices primarily in the area of immigration law and is an adjunct professor at the University of Pittsburgh School of Law, and Haider Ala Hamoudi, a professor of law at the University of Pittsburgh and co-author of a casebook titled “Islamic Law in Modern Courts.”

CAIR’s website describes the organization as a grass-roots civil rights and advocacy group for justice and mutual understanding.



Randy Wells has been a reporter and staff writer at The Indiana Gazette since 1988. His regular assignments include coverage of the Indiana County commissioners, Indiana Borough council and the Marion Center Area School District. His email address is rwells@indianagazette.net.
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