Cincinnati Mayor John Cranley made it crystal clear Monday afternoon in a City Hall room full of people from nearly every religious and ethnic background – Cincinnati is a "sanctuary city" for immigrants.
Cranley's declaration flies in the face of President Trump's executive order from last Friday barring immigrants from seven Muslim nations and putting the resettlement of Syrian refugees on hold.
"This city stands with immigrants," Cranley declared. "This city stands with Muslims. This city stands with Syrian immigrants yearning to breathe free"
Trump has suggested there will be financial consequences for cities declaring themselves sanctuary cities in the form of the cutoff of federal funds.
"I just don't believe that," Cranley said.
Hamilton County Commissioner Todd Portune, who was present for Cranley's City Hall announcement, said the city has nothing to worry about because "it is illegal to deny federal funding to cities for not enforcing laws like that."
Cranley's pronouncement came after three other council members – Wendell Young, Chris Seelbach, and Yvette Simpson, who is running against Cranley for mayor – raised the possibility of legislation declaring Cincinnati a sanctuary city.
The mayor said that since March 2015, the Cincinnati Police Department has had a policy of not enforcing immigration laws. Police Chief Elliot Isaac confirmed that the city police aren't in the business of enforcing immigration laws – including executive orders from the White House.
"We are in the middle of a deep, national moral crisis," Cranley said. "These moments of crisis do not occur every day. But when they do, I believe deeply from my own faith, as a Catholic, that we are required to take a stand."
If people of good will in this country do not act to aid these Muslims, many of whom are the victims of persecution in their home countries, Cranley said, "it will be viewed the way the refusal to help Jewish refugees in World War II."
Cranley said that, early in his term, he created a task force designed at helping make Cincinnati an immigrant-friendly city. One of the results of that was the creation of an ID card system for immigrants administered by the Metropolitan Area Religious Coalition.
The Cincinnati USA Chamber of Commerce is running the Compass program for new immigrants to the city. The region's major educational institutions – the University of Cincinnati, Xavier University, Northern Kentucky University and Miami University – have committed to support the program financially, Cranley said.
Representatives of several faiths - Muslim, Jewish and Catholic – spoke at the mayor's press conference in support of Cincinnati's designation as a sanctuary city – which is an unofficial designation and more of a statement of the community's will.
Karen Dabdoub, executive director of the Cincinnati chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, said that "our hearts are hurting, but our resolve is strong."
"We are all Americans and we are all important to the strength of the fabric of this nation,'' Dabdoub said. "When we start to tear at that fabric, we weaken it for everyone."
Trump's orders "are tearing apart the fabric of this nation."
She said that statements from the president out of Washington Monday suggesting that this is not a ban on Muslims are "patently untrue."
There was a sense of celebration in the room at City Hall as dozens of people from different religions and different ethnic backgrounds shook hands and greeted each other warmly as they celebrated the sanctuary city announcement.
Cranley spoke personally about his experience with Syrian refugees. His wife Dena was at his side – she is the daughter of Jordanian immigrants. Several years ago, the mayor said, he and his wife visited Jordan, a country that has housed about one million Syrian refugees.
Cranley said he visited a Syrian refugee camp and witnessed the suffering of the Syrian people.
Vice Mayor David Mann spoke briefly, pointing behind him to an American flag and telling the people gathered there that he had served four years as a U.S. Navy officer in defense of that flag.
"The America that I served, and that I continue to believe in, is not the America that is represented by what's been happening at our borders. It has to change and I'm sure that it will because of the outpouring throughout this country. It's one of the most amazing events that I've ever observed," Mann said.