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Mayor Pledges Support For Immigrants, Stops Short Of 'Sanctuary City'

Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer gave an impassioned speech in support of immigrants and refugees at a public rally Monday night, drawing cheers from an estimated 5,000 attendees with his plea to "treat everybody like you want to be treated."

But he would not go as far as publicly proclaiming Louisville a so-called sanctuary city and wouldn't say if he'd officially resist the immigration policies of President Trump.

Cincinnati Mayor John Cranley on Monday declared his city a so-called sanctuary city -- meaning the city will not enforce federal immigration laws against people who are there without documentation, according to a report from The Cincinnati Enquier.

Fischer declined to answer directly whether he would make Louisville a sanctuary city.

Sanctuary cities are defined by their policies and procedures for cooperating with federal officials enforcing federal immigration laws, such as agreeing with or refusing to honor requests to detain immigrants.

Some cities honor such requests, others don't. And in some cities, it's not so cut-and-dried.

For instance, in Louisville, local jail officials honor detainer requests (also known as an immigration hold) but only for a few hours, according to data from the Immigration Legal Resource Center.

report from the center lists the declaration of sanctuary city status as an important step in pushing a message of openness to immigrants.

"These declarations set a general tone for the city and expectations for residents," the report states.

Fischer's office organized the rally Monday at the Muhammad Ali Center in downtown Louisville that was attended by thousands of residents. He gave a passionate plea for acceptance and openness.

And while Fischer stressed that Louisville Metro Police do not arrest residents based on their immigration status or have the authority to enforce federal immigration laws, some believe he should catapult the city to "sanctuary" status.

"I think it would help," said Yusra Pascha.

Pascha, 22, wore an American flag hijab, held a sign praising immigrants and stood at the edge of Metro Hall with friends following Monday's rally. She said joining the ranks of other sanctuary cities would "be a solid effort on Louisville's part" to push acceptance of immigrants in Kentucky, a state that voted overwhelmingly for President Trump in the November election.

Jessica May leaned against a ledge outside the Muhammad Ali Center following the rally, holding a sign that read, in part, "#sanctuary." She said sanctuary city status should be considered for Louisville.

"I think it's the next important step for Louisville, especially being diverse as we are, to take that stand," she said. "It'd be nice to see (Fischer) personally push for that sanctuary city."

Jason Clark, whose face was speckled with glitter that fell from his well-adorned pro-immigrant sign, said he "definitely would want" Louisville to become a sanctuary city.

"I think Mayor Fischer should, with what he said today — he needs to help us understand why he did not go as far as to say we would be a sanctuary city," he said.

But not everyone agrees.

Muhammad Babar, a local physician and president of the Pakistani-American Alliance for Compassion and Education, said Louisville is "basically a sanctuary" and doesn't need the label.

"I don't think it makes any difference if we label ourselves or not," he said. "I don't think labels matter — it's the content that matters. We are a compassionate city."

President Trump, in an executive order signed last week, is vowing to withhold federal funding from cities that refuse to cooperate with federal immigration officials. But the Washington Post reported that it's unclear if Trump could honor such a pledge.

Jacob Ryan is the managing editor of the Kentucky Center for Investigative reporting. He's an award-winning investigative reporter who joined LPM in 2014. Email Jacob at jryan@lpm.org.

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