Richmond Mayor Tom Butt pledges protection for immigrants–but future remains uncertain

Mayor Butt released a statement last week responding to Donald Trump's plans to cut federal funding for sanctuary cities during his first 100 days in office. Photo by Catherine Schuknecht.

Mayor Butt released a statement last week responding to Donald Trump's plans to cut federal funding for sanctuary cities during his first 100 days in office. Photo by Catherine Schuknecht.

Mayor Tom Butt’s office released a statement last week in response to apprehension expressed by immigrants and undocumented individuals living in Richmond, a self-declared sanctuary city, about their security and protection following Donald Trump’s presidential win.

The statement is one of several made recently by U.S. mayors of sanctuary cities, or cities that have adopted policies that protect undocumented immigrants from deportation, detention requests by federal immigration authorities and other actions.

“The City of Richmond joins many ‘Sanctuary Cities’ nationwide in providing a significant measure of security and protection for immigrants and undocumented persons living and working in the City of Richmond,” wrote Butt in last week’s statement.

According to the mayor’s statement, Richmond’s Ordinance No. 29-90, adopted in 1990, restricted the city’s response to requests from other federal agencies for “information, assistance or cooperation” to help investigate or prosecute those who are undocumented.

Ordinance No. 29-90 specifically prohibits city employees and police officers in the city from informing, assisting or cooperating with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and prohibits the use of city resources to enforce federal immigration laws in Richmond.

Support for the ordinance was reaffirmed with Resolution 11-07, adopted in 2007, which stated the city’s support for “comprehensive immigration reform that is fair, just and humane.”

In the past few weeks, mayors from at least a dozen cities with similar policies or ordinances have reasserted their cities’ status as sanctuary cities.  In a report written on Nov. 17 by KQED News  those cities include Los Angeles, New York and Washington D.C.

Butt joins other Bay Area mayors who have announced their plans to remain sanctuary cities.

In an East Bay Express op-ed published last Tuesday, Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf said that Oakland will stand as a sanctuary city and protect residents from “unjust federal immigration laws.”

Two weeks ago, San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee tweeted that “San Francisco will never be anything other than a sanctuary city.”

The mayors’ announcements come as Trump has released plans for his first hundred days in office, which his campaign has called “Donald Trump’s Contract with the American Voter.”

In the contract, Trump vowed to cancel all federal funding to sanctuary cities in order to “restore security and the constitutional rule of law.”

Richmond City Manager Bill Lindsay said the city currently has active grants that have awarded 72 million dollars in federal funds to the city.

But exactly what Trump’s contract will mean for cities such as Richmond remains unclear.

“All of the comments about funding have been so general, I can’t even speculate how it would affect Richmond,” said Lindsay.

City services that could be affected by cuts to federal funds include housing, employment and training departments, and transportation programs.

But Butt said “it is premature to start planning ahead.”

“We don’t know what the federal government is going to do, if anything,” he said.

Butt said his statement aimed to send a message that the city has taken steps to protect immigrants in the past and will continue to do so in the future.

Butt also joined over a hundred mayors nationwide in signing “An Open Letter to the Next President of the United States: Mayors and Municipal Leaders Call for Immigration Reform” which was written in July; the letter supports “stronger, safer and more economically prosperous cities and counties through urgently needed immigration action.”

“We had a good solid policy and it works well, and we just don’t know what is going to happen in the future,” said Butt, adding, “maybe it will be fine in the future too.”

2 Comments

  1. Anthony Somkin

    It isn’t enough to declare Richmond a sanctuary city. The at-residents must be informed of the declaration and reminded just what form the protection will take.

    As the Medical Director of Richmond RotaCare Free Clinic, I have already the chilling effect on our undocumented immigrant population. There is increasing reluctance to seek needed medical care and a legitimate fear that even a medical visit will be reported.

    Anthony Somkin, M.D.

    • It isn’t enough to declare Richmond a Sanctuary city. The head-risk residents must be informed and reminded just would form this protection will take.

      As the Medical Director Of RotaCare Richmond Free Clinic, I have already seen the chilling effect on our undocumented immigrant population. There is increasing reluctance to seek attention for needed medical care and a legitimate fear that any medical visit will be reported.

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