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Immigration protest planned to ask city council declare Pontiac a sanctuary city

A second nationwide “A Day Without Immigrants” protest is planned for this Labour Day and the Hispanic/Latino community in Pontiac wants to use the event as a way to ask city council to pass “sanctuary city” policy that would prevent local employees from notifying federal authorities of illegal immigrants living in the community.

The march will start at 11 a.m. on Monday, May 1 in front of Pontiac City Hall with a rally and will continue on to the Oakland County Sheriff’s Office.

This protest comes days after a federal judge blocked the Trump administration from withholding federal funds, such as Community Development Block Grants, from municipalities that declare themselves sanctuary cities, citing that it could be unconstitutional. Pontiac city council recently tabled a vote to pass a statement of solidarity with the immigrant community in fear of losing its federal funding, something some council members are saying they’d be open to revisiting.

The solidarity statement reads in part that “the City of Pontiac welcomes all persons and recognizes the rights of individuals to live their lives with dignity, free of discrimination and targeting because of their age, faith, race, national origin, immigration status,”

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Councilwoman Mary Pietila, president pro-tem for District 3, said she has mixed feelings on the solidarity statement.

“I will say there are some concerns I have with it, that we ensure the safety of the community was the main thing, that we not allow border patrol to deport anyone. I wouldn’t want to see a resolution passed that gives the wrong impression, we can’t make promises we can’t keep and that resolution had promises,” Pietila said.

“I don’t think it’s our right to tell someone to leave when they’re clean as a whistle and they’re already here, but at the same time I’m torn … illegal is illegal. I just don’t think sending them back the way they’re doing it is right.”

Councilman Mark Holland, District 5, said that the council will likely reconsider the statement now that the threat of losing funding is gone.

“We stand behind them but to put it in writing, we were afraid of what it could do to all the citizens here … but we’ll absolutely reconsider it,” Holland said.

Discussion of becoming a sanctuary city, instead of signing the solidarity statement, has not yet taken place within the council.

“The classification of a sanctuary city has certain legal ramifications that come with it. With respect to a solidarity statement, you see them frequently throughout the state and the country and typically there are no legal ramifications from those,” Travis Mihelick, city attorney said.

Terry Beltrán, one of the organizers for the protest and founder of Ask The Latina, an empowerment social media tool and president of Beltran Media and Vista Latinos Marketing Solutions, said a solidarity statement alone won’t be good enough for the community.

“Solidarity statements don’t do anything and furthermore, the council need to balance how much money is going to be spent on these kids who are parentless now, or if the economy drops because they’ve lost so many people. People are moving out (of Pontiac). Rental homes are becoming empty by the minute,” Beltrán said.

The first “A Day Without Immigrants” on Feb. 16 drew about 300 residents and members of the Hispanic and Latino communities to downtown Pontiac.

RELATED: See scenes from the first “A Day Without Immigrants” protest in Pontiac.

RELATED: Hundreds march through Pontiac for A Day Without Immigrants

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