West Palm Beach is officially a “Welcoming City” for immigrants.
The city commission passed a resolution Monday that bars city employees – including police – from inquiring into a person’s immigration status, or disclosing it to others.
The resolution is an attempt by the commission to reduce the fears of undocumented immigrants in the community and it was approved the same day that the Justice Department announced it is following through with an executive order to withhold as much as $4.1 billion in federal grants from so-called "sanctuary cities."
“We want to make sure people know that they are safe here in West Palm Beach, and that this is a place where we want them to be,” said Mayor Jeri Muoio.
West Palm Beach attorney Victoria Mesa-Estrada says President Trump’s executive order to step up deportations has local immigrant communities wary of working with the justice system.
“Last week I had a client who was talking to me about her daughter being sexually molested,” said Mesa-Estrada. “Because the mother is undocumented, she had a real fear of going to the police.”
But West Palm Beach resident Brett Borders says this resolution will encourage more illegal immigration.
“What you’re doing is not welcoming,” said Borders. “I know it feels good…but what you’re proposing is not sustainable. I think of it as a huge sellout to the citizens of West Palm Beach.”
Commissioner Sylvia Moffett hopes other South Florida cities will follow their lead and pass similar resolutions.
The School District of Palm Beach has already taken steps to ensure that schools are considered "safe harbors" from immigration raids.
"We don’t ask people about their immigration status—it’s actually against the law to ask that. We don’t know, and neither will we share information with any individual department unless we are required by law, and the school board stands with me on that here in Palm Beach County," said school superintendent Robert Avossa in an interview with WLRN.