2017 Birmingham Sanctuary City resolution

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The 2017 Birmingham Sanctuary City resolution was a Birmingham City Council resolution, adopted by unanimous vote, on January 31, 2017 pledging that Birmingham "strives to be a community free of hostilities and aggressions and uphold the commitment to be a community free of prejudice, bigotry and hate."

The action was taken shortly after President Donald Trump issued an executive order suspending entry into the United States for refugees and visa holders from seven majority-Muslim countries. While hundreds of demonstrators gathered at Birmingham-Shuttlesworth International Airport to voice their opposition for what was widely interpreted as a "Muslim ban", the city made official statements that it would always support peaceful protest and be "welcoming" to immigrants and refugees. Mayor William Bell stated that city services were available to all residents regardless of immigration status, and that Birmingham Police Department would not enforce federal immigration policies or engage in "stop and frisk" procedures, which have historically been used along with racial profiling to erode civil rights.

The formal "Sanctuary City" resolution was submitted by Council president Johnathan Austin at the council's regular Tuesday morning meeting. He affixed a sign reading "Birmingham stands with immigrants" in front of his seat at the dais during the meeting. Dozens of supporters filled the chamber and twenty-five residents spoke in favor of the resolution. While the issue was on the table, Valerie Abbott moved to enter an executive session to discuss possible legal ramifications of stating the city's intent not to comply with the 2011 Beason-Hammon Alabama Taxpayer and Citizen Protection Act which gave local officials responsibilities to determine and report the immigration status of people receiving government services or suspected of committing crimes.

Council attorney Freddy Rubio assured members that because the resolution stated the city's intentions rather than setting formal policy, that it complied with state law. Abbott's motion was defeated by a voice vote, and Austin was joined by all five other members present (Abbott, Steven Hoyt, Marcus Lundy, Kim Rafferty and Jay Roberson) in voting for its adoption.

In a separate statement, Mayor Bell indicated that he would lobby the Alabama State Legislature to lift restrictions in the Beason-Hammon Act for Class I municipalities. He cited two sections of the Alabama Constitution of 1901 which specifically protect the rights and property of immigrants. He further pledged that city departments would not attempt to investigate or enforce immigration status when approving permits and licenses.

Within hours of the council resolution's passage, Governor Robert Bentley issued a statement saying that "Alabama will not support sanctuary cities or institutions that harbor or shelter illegal immigrants, and are in clear violation of the laws of the nation."

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