At rally, hundreds call on local leaders to make Lawrence a sanctuary city

photo by: Jackson Barton

Activists hold signs at a rally calling on local leaders to make Lawrence a sanctuary city on Friday, July 12, 2019, at Watson Park.

Hundreds of community members rallied in Watson Park Friday night to kickstart a movement calling on city officials to make Lawrence a sanctuary city.

At the rally, which was organized by a local coalition of Latino activists, more than 300 people signed a petition urging Lawrence leaders to pass ordinances aimed at protecting immigrants, including measures that would restrict the Lawrence Police Department from cooperating with Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

Mariel Ferreiro, an immigration activist from Dodge City and a member of the coalition, said the city needed to do more to protect immigrants.

“We do not want ICE and our local law enforcement cooperating at all, and that means even answering calls that ICE may send,” Ferreiro said.

In 2017, the City Commission proclaimed Lawrence a “welcoming city,” but proclamations do not have the binding effects that laws and ordinances have. At the time, city commissioners said that distinction was important because President Donald Trump had recently issued an executive order that threatened to restrict the flow of federal funding to sanctuary cities, and Lawrence might have been at risk of losing millions of federal dollars.

Although the executive order was blocked by a federal judge later in the year, the City Commission has not revisited the issue since that meeting.

photo by: Jackson Barton

Members of the Lawrence Democratic Socialists lead chants calling for the abolishment of Immigration and Customs Enforcement during a rally on Friday, July 12, 2019, at Watson Park.

The coalition, which does not have a name yet, is also starting a general fund to help local immigrants and refugees pay for such things as legal fees, groceries and transportation. More than $1,600 was raised for the fund at the rally.

Rep. Susan Ruiz, a Shawnee Democrat, told the crowds the country needed more sanctuary cities because they help immigrants access legal resources, giving them a better chance of being able to stay in the country. Ruiz said Hispanic people like herself were using rallies like the one Friday night to find their political voice.

“All of us who are minorities; we don’t have the luxury of waiting around the hoping that something will change,” Ruiz said. “We’ve got to speak up, because if we don’t speak up we will continue to get stepped on.”

Ruiz also urged those in attendance to make their voices heard in the political process by voting. Before the rally, she told the Journal-World that her father, who immigrated to the United States from Mexico, had taught her the importance of political involvement early on in life.

“The thing that he imparted on all of the kids is that we have a duty and we have an obligation to vote,” Ruiz said. “He always said that if we didn’t like how things were going … then we had the power to change that through the power of voting.”

The next meeting of the coalition is at the Lawrence Public Library at 6 p.m. on July 23. Ferreiro said the group would be working on an official sanctuary city policy proposal to send to the City Commission.

photo by: Jackson Barton

Topeka teacher Tai Amri Spann-Ryan speaks during a rally calling on local leaders to make Lawrence a sanctuary city on Friday, July 12, 2019, at Watson Park.

Related story

March 8, 2017 — City Commission votes to declare Lawrence a ‘welcoming’ city for immigrants, pursue additional support


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