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Protesters pack sanctuary city hearing

Protesters gathered outside the Governmental Center in Traverse City Wednesday night as the Human Rights Commission held a hearing on the city's sanctuary city status.

A discussion on whether Traverse City should become a sanctuary city drew dozens of protesters to the governmental center Wednesday night.

Sanctuary city status would likely mean that local police would not report illegal immigrants to the federal government.

While Traverse City police looked on, about 50 people stood outside the governmental center, waving signs saying things like “No Sanctuary City” and “Keep America Great.”

Tom Hartmann brought an American flag with the phrase “Don’t Tread On Me.”

“Our country is on an incredibly dangerous course,” says Hartmann, who’s concerned that immigrants from the Middle East – particularly Syria – aren’t being vetted properly before entering the U.S.

Credit Aaron Selbig
The commission chambers were packed with people - most of them opposed to sanctuary city status for Traverse City.

The Traverse City Human Rights Commission has quietly been having conversations over the last few months about the sanctuary city possibility. Wednesday night, for the first time, they opened it up to public discussion.

Most people opposed the idea, saying crime would go up, that the Coast Guard may pull out of the city and that the Trump administration would make good on promises to cut federal funding to sanctuary cities.

One woman, Ella, was concerned a sudden influx of immigrants would add to Traverse City’s housing crunch.

“Right now, it sounds like a feel-good move,” she said. “Republican, Democrat – it doesn’t matter. We need to make choices that are going to affect our area in a positive light, and I don’t think this will.”

A few people – like Pat Mallon – tried to speak in support of the idea. Mallon says immigrants in this area – like migrant farm workers – should not have to worry about interacting with police.

“I don’t want them to be afraid of the local police, and I don’t understand why people think that just because suddenly we have a sanctuary status, that the people that have been living peaceably around them are suddenly going to turn into a marauding horde of criminals. I just don’t understand that,” says Mallon.

The Human Rights Commission does not have the power to declare sanctuary city status – only the city commission could do that. Isiah Smith, chair of the Human Rights commission, says they’re a long way from making a recommendation.