Aurora leaders and police deserve much credit for doing the right thing for everyone who lives in or visits the city, regardless of citizenship. In this case the right thing has been the best thing for everyone.
Doing the right thing may have branded Aurora with an unwanted moniker, that of being a so-called sanctuary city. The city is about to explore that issue at a March 27 public meeting, something else local officials should be lauded for.
But those officials are making a mistake by precluding the public from weighing on this critical issue while city lawmakers take in facts and opinions.
Aurora has for several years stood fast in the belief that civilian police here undermine public safety for everyone when they act in any capacity as federal immigration officers.
So they don’t. Aurora police have made it clear they won’t, in the line of duty, make inquiries about the citizenship of those involved in traffic incidents, assaults, neighborhood watch meetings, robberies or any of the hundreds of ways police come in contact with the public.
It means that anyone who needs police can freely call them knowing that if they’re a witness to a neighbor’s burglary, they won’t be asked to prove they have residency documents or get hauled off to jail. It means that everyone is protected by the law in Aurora, and held to it. And it means that illegal immigrants aren’t easy prey for criminals confident that immigrants without papers won’t call the cops.
Likewise, school districts in Aurora don’t demand proof of citizenship to enroll children in schools. Hospitals don’t ask for birth certificates to get treatment in an emergency room.
Does that make Aurora a sanctuary city?
Possibly. It depends on whom you ask. While Aurora has been targeted by anti-illegal-immigrant activists across the country for being a sanctuary city, most city officials here don’t consider it so. Recent executive orders from the Trump Administration are confusing. If someone is arrested and in the course of normal booking the suspect is identified as someone wanted for arrest by federal immigration officers, they’ll contact ICE, but they won’t hold suspects outside of their normal processing routine — unless the person is a wanted criminal, and then citizenship doesn’t matter anyway.
On March 27, Aurora City Council members will set aside part of their regular study session meeting to focus on how far Aurora should go in ignoring the residency of the public. They’ll get opinions and discuss whether Aurora should embrace the sanctuary city moniker, reject it or just ignore it.
Confusing Trump Administration actions and edicts could mean nothing, or they could put millions of dollars of federal funds at risk.
But Aurora lawmakers specifically agreed earlier this month to allow the public to hear the discussion, but not join in.
It’s a mistake. It’s vital that city lawmakers take in a wide variety of facts, analyses and opinions, and it’s imperative that the public hear this exchange as well. But it’s just as important that lawmakers hear directly from constituents at the same time.
While city council members have agreed that anyone with a comment can make it during a later, regular, city council meeting, it’s not the same, and it misses the point. By precluding the public, local lawmakers and other city officials miss vital comment.
There is no practical reason why the meeting can’t be held in council chambers and accommodate public comment. While much of the public may have grown fatigued of the constant political battle in Washington over this issue, it’s right here in Aurora, in our neighborhoods, our schools and our businesses. Each of us have a huge stake in what Congress and the Trump Administration do regarding illegal immigration, and how Aurora police and local lawmakers respond.
City council should listen to their experts and their constituents.