West Palm Beach named ‘welcoming city;’ employees won’t help feds round up immigrants

West Palm Beach is a city in and the county seat of Palm Beach County, Florida, United States. It is the oldest large municipality in the South Florida metropolitan area, having been incorporated as a city two years before Miami.

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West Palm Beach is a city in and the county seat of Palm Beach County, Florida, United States. It is the oldest large municipality in the South Florida metropolitan area, having been incorporated as a city two years before Miami.

As the Trump administration threatens to sanction so-called sanctuary cities, the West Palm Beach City Commission this week unanimously declared West Palm a "welcoming city" whose employees will not help federal law enforcement round up immigrants for deportation unless they are specifically required to do so by state or federal law or courts.

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The resolution — not a city law but a policy statement — passed after more than an hour of public comment in a commission chamber packed mostly with supporters but some with pointed opposition.

The resolution prohibits city employees from:

  • Asking anyone for information about or otherwise helping investigate citizenship or immigration status
  • Disclosing information regarding someone's citizenship or immigration status
  • Conditioning receipt of city benefits, opportunities or services on one's citizenship or immigration status
  • Requiring federal identification documents issued by a person's nation of origin, instead of just accepting a Florida driver's license or Florida ID card
  • It requires that arrests and detentions be conducted in accordance with the city's standard procedures.

“We want to make sure people know that they are safe in West Palm Beach and this is a place where we want them to be,” Mayor Jeri Muoio said.

A spokeswoman for the service employees union said the phrase “welcoming city” means the same as “sanctuary city” but without implying wrongdoing.

ExploreRead: Palm Beach County officials say ‘We are not a sanctuary’

City Commissioner Paula Ryan said the city has been fielding daily calls and emails expressing heightened fear of deportation under the Trump Administration. Some immigrant parents, afraid they’ll be taken away, are consulting with lawyers to draft power of attorney documents to ensure their children won’t become wards of the state, she said.

Muoio said schools superintendent Robert Avossa told her that attendance has been dropping in schools with large immigrant populations.

“Children are afraid something will happen to their parents or parents are afraid something will happen to their children,” she said. “We want to make it clear that it’s so important for children to go to school.”

She said the community response to the resolution has been mostly positive, though she fielded “some very heated negative responses” from people concerned that the city would be violating federal law.

“We’re not breaking the law,” she said. “We’re very clear (that) we’ll uphold all laws applicable.”

Immigrants who break the law will be arrested and treated like anyone else, she said.

Read more at the Palm Beach Post.

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