West Palm Beach has declared itself a “Welcoming City” for immigrants.
West Palm city commissioners on Monday unanimously passed a resolution intended to reduce undocumented immigrants’ fears of local police.
The resolution states that city employees -- including police -- cannot investigate someone’s citizenship status. Nor may local authorities disclose someone’s citizenship status to others, unless the law or a warrant requires it. And when West Palm police ask for proof of identification from an immigrant with no state-issued ID, they may use ID from their home country instead. Since the election of President Donald Trump, immigrants without papers have become nervous as the new president has pledged to increase deportations.
“We wanna make sure people know that they are safe here in West Palm Beach,” said Mayor Jeri Muio, “This is a place where we want them to be.”
Two pro-immigrant-rights groups originally planned to protest the commission’s decision to vote on a resolution instead of an ordinance. A resolution states the rules city employees must follow, while an ordinance is city law. Members of Women’s March Florida’s West Palm Beach chapter and South Florida Activism did not protest outside city hall. They instead joined dozens of residents to tell city officials they support the resolution, and hope the commission will pass an ordinance in the future.
“We believe that the city of West Palm Beach can and should lead the way with the passing of this resolution,” said Alex Newell Taylor, captain of the West Palm chapter of the Women’s March. Speaking for her chapter, she added “we would like to see this become an ordinance eventually if possible.”
Most of the 100 or so people in the audience cheered Newell Taylor. At least eight booed.
One of those who booed was Lake Worth resident Mary Kelly. She later told SFGN that her problem is not with all immigrants, just those who move here without getting the right papers. When asked to elaborate on her views, she mentioned, “I’ve had a home invasion by three Hispanic men. I didn’t have the chance to get their ID cards,” so she does not know if they lived in the U.S. illegally. She said she employs a foreign yard worker, who she would not report to law enforcement if she found out he was here illegally.
When someone is arrested by city police, they are booked into Palm Beach County jail, which is run by Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office. If ICE asks PBSO, without a court order or warrant, to hold a detainee longer than local police need to, PBSO does not have to honor that request. But if sheriff’s deputies arrest an undocumented immigrant, PBSO reports it to ICE.
Commissioner Sylvia Moffett hopes other South Florida cities would follow West Palm’s example. “I think this is a great first step,” she said, “And I hope that other cities will take up the challenge and take up their own resolutions and realize that it’s not our police people’s job to go out and round up people.”