BY QUANNY CARR — Nine members of the city council introduced an ordinance to make Hyattsville a sanctuary city, despite a recent executive order from the Trump administration aimed at enforcing immigration laws.
On Jan. 25, President Donald Trump signed an executive order that called for “direct agencies … to ensure the faithful execution of immigration laws of the United States against all removable aliens.” A hard push for immigration enforcement is outlined in the order.
It also states a penalty for any “sanctuary jurisdictions across the United States [that] willfully violate Federal law in an attempt to shield aliens from removal from the United States.” According to the executive order, any sanctuary jurisdictions “that willfully refuse to comply … are not eligible to receive Federal grants.”
With the threat of losing federal funding, cities such as Miami-Dade, Fla., have announced their compliance with the executive order.
The super majority of the Hyattsville City Council, however, is not letting that threat stop them. Councilmember Patrick Paschall (Ward 3) introduced the legislation, with eight cosponsors: Mayor Candace Hollingsworth and councilmembers Kevin Ward (Ward 1), Bart Lawrence (Ward 1), Robert Croslin (Ward 2), Shani Warner (Ward 2), Thomas Wright (Ward 3), Edouard Haba (Ward 4), and Joseph Solomon (Ward 5).
“There is no amount of money that can convince our local government to spend local taxpayer resources, including our police officers, on targeting our own residents for discrimination,” said Paschall.
Mayor Hollingsworth highlighted Hyattsville’s commitment to all its residents.
This legislation “gives our foreign-born residents peace of mind that their protection and sense of place is not subject to the whims of a body politic,” Hollingsworth said. “It’s times like these when aligning your words and deeds can mean the difference between feeling safe and knowing that you belong. I want all of our residents to know that no matter what happens in the current Oval Office, they belong right here in Hyattsville.”
The sanctuary city proposal was first announced by Paschall at the “Not On Our Watch” rally in November. Since then, Paschall has been working with the city council to officially make Hyattsville a sanctuary city. The councilmembers have also been working closely with local immigrant advocacy organizations like CASA de Maryland and La Clinica del Pueblo.
“This legislation I introduced, along with my eight colleagues and a super majority of the Hyattsville City Council, will prohibit the city staff from arresting or detaining or continuing to hold or transferring information about a resident’s immigration status to the federal government,” said Paschall.
The legislation would prohibit the city’s participation of a registry based on race or religion and would also stop the city from entering into any financial agreements with the federal government, whereby the government would pay for immigration enforcement at a local level, he added.
“The City of Hyattsville has a long-standing practice of acting as a sanctuary city. It’s high time we make that official,” said Warner.
“We don’t build or protect our communities by building walls or by creating an ‘us vs. them’ climate; but rather by building bridges and creating a ‘we’ environment where everyone can experience a sense of belonging,” said Haba, adding that he strongly supports the motion.
Before Hyattsville can become a sanctuary city, the legislation will undergo a formal council discussion and vote. The ordinance will be put on the agenda at the earliest available date, Paschall said, likely in February or early March.
The measure is likely to attract some strong debate. Councilmembers Paula Perry (Ward 4) and Ruth Ann Frazier (Ward 5) were not invited to comment on the proposed legislation. “I have never been contacted by any member of the Hyattsville City Council regarding this motion or the making of it,” Frazier said.
Paschall responded: “Paula Perry and Ruth Ann Frazier have been openly hostile to immigrants in our community, especially Latinos, and therefore were not invited to cosponsor our sanctuary city legislation. I would welcome their support to protect city residents from being targeted for discrimination by the Trump Administration, but I am not optimistic given their terrible track record on civil rights issues here in Hyattsville.”
Paschall encouraged residents of Hyattsville to be proactive and voice their thoughts on the issue in front of the city council. “When we have public discussions about this, come and speak your mind to the city council. Make sure that the city council knows that you support this measure,” he said.
Hyattsville already has a long-standing history of welcoming immigrants but with written legislation of a sanctuary city, the council hopes to stand in solidarity with not just immigrants, but all marginalized groups.
“We are going to stand up to the bullying and the harassment that the president of the United States intends to engage in to target our residents and we’re going to make sure our residents know there’s no need to be afraid of your local government,” said Paschall.
Digital Editor Krissi Humbard contributed to this report.