Mayor: York City welcomes immigrants

Jason Addy

Four days into President Donald Trump’s administration, York City reaffirmed its status as a “welcoming city” for immigrants.

York City Mayor Kim Bracey signed an executive order Monday stating that the city “remains committed to ensuring public safety, public health and vital services … through the promotion of inclusiveness and trust between the government and all city residents.”

York City is not a “sanctuary city” and will not interfere with any federal investigations or enforcement of immigration laws, Bracey said at a news conference announcing the order. The order is meant to encourage members of the immigrant community to work with the York City Police Department.

A sanctuary city is a city that has adopted policies to shelter illegal immigrants by preventing local law enforcement from informing federal immigration authorities about the immigration status of individuals.

The executive order does not change any directives or initiatives at the police department, and officers will continue to treat all city residents with respect and dignity, regardless of race, gender, sexual orientation, religion or immigration status, Bracey said.

“The driving force behind today’s action is to increase the trust between our immigrant community and our police department,” Bracey said. “We have had many situations where victims or witnesses have refused to speak with our police because they are worried that if they talked to the police, it would lead to them, a friend or family member being arrested and deported.

"I stand before you today to assure the immigrant community that the York City Police Department has not and will not punish victims or witnesses of crimes because of their immigration status," Bracey said.

CASA Executive Director Gustavo Torres, who partnered with the mayor on the executive order, said the order is meant to change the immigrant community’s perception of the police. CASA provides legal counseling for immigrants on a variety of fronts, from workplace rights to applying for citizenship to general immigration issues.

The “extraordinary” executive order signed by the mayor comes at a time when many immigrants are fearful of their place in the community and society, with “a lot of rumors” coming from Trump’s administration, Torres said.

Trump announced his bid for president in June 2015, calling for a wall across America's border with Mexico, and Trump's  anti-immigration stance was a central theme of his campaign throughout. In recent days, Trump has backed away from his pledge to end protections for nearly 750,000 immigrants brought to the U.S. as children, the Los Angeles Times reports.

“Regardless of your race, your color of skin, your immigrant status, this city is for you,” Torres said. “The mayor is telling everyone that the people who live in the city, who play by the rules, are welcome to the city.”

Torres said he is hopeful the executive order will make York’s immigrant community more comfortable to actively participate in the cultural, economic, religious and social life of the city.

Torres also said the police department’s mission to “resolve crimes and make sure that everybody in the city feels safe” will not change because of the executive order.

Fourth-grader Angello Salazar, 9, spoke in support of the executive order at Tuesday’s news conference.

Angello said he watched a video of Martin Luther King Jr. at school and came home crying because it reminded him of how things look today.

“When I went to sleep, I dreamed that one day, people from America that are Hispanic won’t be deported from America (by) our new president,” Angello said.

York City Police Chief Wes Kahley could not be reached for comment  Tuesday afternoon.

York City resident Remi Diaz, 44, speaks in support of Mayor Kim Bracey's executive order declaring York City a "welcoming city." Diaz, who is a member of CASA, emigrated from the Dominican Republic in the late 1990s.