Standing on the steps of City Hall Thursday, Council Member P.G. Sittenfeld announced legislation to create a Rapid Response Network meant to protect Cincinnati's immigrant and refugee population in the event of a federal raid.
The network will be coordinated and led by The Immigrant and Refugee Law Center, as well as other partners like the Jewish Community Relations Council, and will include the following, according to Sittenfeld's motion:
- Legal response, including screening for possible immigration relief, representation in bond hearings and representation in immigration cases
- "Know your rights" trainings for the broader community, including but limited to immigrants, employers, city officials and departments
- Family preparedness plans relative to what happens to children, property, etc. in the event that parents are detained
- Immediate needs assistance to families affected by detentions, as it is often the breadwinner who is detained
"We, the city of Cincinnati, need to be proactive when it comes to protecting members of our community," Sittenfeld said while surrounded by members of the Jewish and Hispanic community, a Cincinnati Police officer and others. "And I want to underscore what I mean when I say members of our community. If you pay our taxes, if you are raising your family here, if you are adding to the diversity and vitality of our neighborhoods – and all of our local immigrants and refugees are doing those things – then you are absolutely a member of this community."
Sittenfeld acknowledges that Cincinnati was not on the Trump administration's recent list of cities said to be planned for federal raids. "But we still want to be proactive and take precautions," he says.
Next steps are for the Immigrant and Refugee Law Center to establish a leadership team and establish service providers. Additional partners who have already signed on include Cincinnati Compass, Cincinnati's League of United Latin American Citizens, the YWCA, the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, Catholic Charities, the Cincinnati Early Learning Center, and more. Sittenfeld passed out a motion showing that the legislation already has six signatures, or the support of a super majority of council.
"The most challenging times are what make us strongest, and I believe this is an important time for the community to come together," says Julie Lemaster, director of The Immigrant and Refugee Law Center.
Officer Anthony Johnson is an immigrant liaison with the Cincinnati Police Department, and could often be seen nodding his head in agreement to Sittenfeld's statements about immigrants' impact on the community.
"This is something that is immediately needed because this is a crisis," he says. "And when you truly understand the crisis by looking at people's faces and seeing the pain that you see … you truly understand the importance of why we're here today."
Sittenfeld says he expects the legislation to get a vote the first full week of August. "My hope is that it will pass unanimously or near unanimously," he says.