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Traverse City woman looks to create sanctuary city

Traverse City woman looks to create sanctuary city

A local woman is looking into how to make Traverse City a sanctuary city.

Kelly Forrester, a licensed professional counselor in the area, says she's very much in the early stages of her plan and is still trying to learn more about what exactly a sanctuary city is.

There's no legal definition for a sanctuary city according to Traverse City Immigration Lawyer, Marcelo Betti.

"It's a term that's been loosely applied to place where local law enforcement is instructed not to report undocumented immigrants to federal authorities," said Betti.

But they're popping up all over the country.

Forrester says she's been wanting to get more civically involved, after topics surrounding immigration arose during the presidential election.

"I'm certainly not an expert," said Forrester. "I'm jumping in as somebody in our community who wants to learn and wants to participate. But some of the rhetoric that I'm concerned might become policy is very frightening to me. And I feel like it's time to get more active and more involved in my community."

Betti says some of the sanctuary cities actually create policies that local law enforcement shouldn't cooperate with federal authorities who ask to hold undocumented immigrants until they can come and get them.

But he says local police shouldn't be doing that anyway.

"One important thing to know is that being unlawfully present in the U.S. without documentation is not a crime, it's a civil violation," said Betti.

Regardless, Betti says there's nothing local police can do if federal agencies choose to come in and enforce immigration laws.

In fact, Marcelo believes calling Traverse City a sanctuary city would attract negative attention.

"Because you're basically telling federal agencies that we have undocumented population here," Betti said. "Two, from overzealous U.S. citizens who might say well if our police is not going to report folks who are undocumented then I'm going to take it upon myself to do that."

Betti says that could also create trouble for immigrants that are here legally.

Foster says she isn't sure where she wants this to go, but she does believe it will help open up the conversation.

"I'm just learning too," Forrester said. "I'm a person too who's living in the community who is seeing a lot of distress and I'm trying to be as well informed as I can. I don't exactly know what it looks like."

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