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Understanding what a 'sanctuary city' is

Posted at 7:10 AM, Feb 14, 2017
and last updated 2017-02-14 12:44:51-05

Father Fred Thelen says explaining sanctuary cities isn't easy.

"Unfortunately there's many ways of defining a sanctuary city when you get down to the exact details," Thelen, the pastor of Cristo Rey Community Church said.

The basics are that the city is welcoming to undocumented immigrants and its police relax enforcement of immigration law

"The police officers for instance are gonna treat them with the same dignity and respect as anyone else,” Father Thelen said. “They're not going to go out of their way to ask for documents for instance on a routine stop."

Lansing Mayor Virg Bernero says Lansing is already welcoming. And its police don't hassle immigrants for documents, even though they aren't officially a “sanctuary” city,

"We have not looked at being an undocumented worker as breaking the law,” Mayor Bernero said. “We have not been primary enforcement of immigration law. And we don't intend to be."

Mayor Bernero says he doesn't think it matters what the label is, it depends on what the city actually does.

"We will resist enforcing primary immigration law as a primary part of what we do," Mayor Bernero said.

Father Thelen on the other hand, thinks Lansing should come out and say it's a sanctuary city, to stand behind other cities across the nation and show Lansing's undocumented immigrants that the city won't back down.

"It provides another level of assurance that the city of Lansing is going to continue to welcome them,” Father Thelen said.