The Lawrence City Commission voted Tuesday to delay action on changes to its sanctuary ordinance that city staff said were necessary to comply with state law. The commission will instead give activists more time to work with the city on changes to the ordinance.
Under House Bill 2717 — which passed quickly in the Legislature this year, despite testimony overwhelmingly in opposition — local units of government are supposed to be unable to adopt any ordinance or policy that would interfere with law enforcement cooperation in immigration enforcement actions. Lawrence and Douglas County officials had also voiced opposition to the bill.
The law specifically targeted a more elaborate ordinance passed in Wyandotte County that would have created municipal IDs, but Lawrence and Roeland Park had passed their own. Cities have until July 1 to come into compliance with the new state law.
Lawrence’s ordinance prohibits collecting immigration-related information for people to access city services and limits the Lawrence Police Department’s cooperation with ICE agents. It was the product of work that took place over the course of more than a year between volunteers with the Sanctuary Alliance of Lawrence and city staff, intended to codify Lawrence as a welcoming place for all people regardless of their immigration status.
A revised version of the ordinance and some LPD policies (embedded below) appeared on the Lawrence City Commission’s consent agenda on Tuesday, where it would have been passed along with a list of other items considered to be routine in a single vote.
But Mariel Ferreiro, of Sanctuary Alliance, asked the commission to pull the ordinance changes for a discussion. Ferreiro said the city should not make numerous strikes to the ordinance without first taking time to review it with an expert in immigration law and determine whether the city would actually be forced to make changes to come into compliance.
The bill states that “Any ordinance, resolution, rule or policy that violates subsection (a) is null and void.” Ferreiro said the city was preempting the work of the attorney general without doing so intentionally.
Ferreiro said she was just asking the commission to delay action on the ordinance until they have the chance to “do it right.”
“If the consequence right now is that the attorney general may ask to review the ordinance and we’re already working to modify that ordinance, then on a personal level, I’m willing to take a risk like that,” Ferreiro said. “That doesn’t sound like it’s harming anyone.
“And to speak to the target on our backs,” she said, referencing Commissioner Amber Sellers’ question asking if it could place a target on the city to keep the ordinance in place — “Immigrants have targets on their backs every day. It’s a risk we’re willing to take,” Ferreiro said.
She asked the commission for a month for the group of volunteers to work with the city.
Commissioner Bart Littlejohn said he wanted the city to be in compliance by July 1. Vice Mayor Lisa Larsen said she also had concerns about missing that deadline.
Commissioner Brad Finkeldei said under his oath of office, he swore to uphold state and federal law.
“We’re being told the (ordinance) violates state laws. So my concern is that I can’t knowingly … have something on the books that violates state law,” he said.
Mayor Courtney Shipley asked her fellow commissioners, “How much time can I get out of you?”
Sellers moved to defer the ordinance and to direct staff to work with community partners and an immigration lawyer and to bring it back to the commission to review at a later date.
Sellers moved first for that review to happen at the commission’s July 5 meeting, which failed 3-2; only she and Shipley voted in favor.
She made a second motion to defer it until Tuesday, June 28 for staff to then bring the ordinance back at a special meeting; that passed 4-1, with Finkeldei opposed.
The commission usually meets beginning at 5:45 p.m., though a special meeting time was not yet confirmed as of Tuesday evening. City agendas are available via this link.
Ferreiro said after the meeting that Sanctuary Alliance will post updates on its Facebook page at this link as negotiations progress.
Back in the Legislature, Lawrence-area Reps. Mike Amyx, Barbara Ballard, Christina Haswood and Boog Highberger all voted against HB 2717. Sen. Marci Francisco also voted against the house bill, and Sen. Tom Holland voted in favor of it. All are Democrats.
Here’s the full agenda item showing city staff’s proposed ordinance and LPD policy revisions:Agenda-Item-Report-22-406-Updated-06_14_22-Pdf
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Mackenzie Clark (she/her), reporter/founder of The Lawrence Times, can be reached at mclark (at) lawrencekstimes (dot) com. Read more of her work for the Times here. Check out her staff bio here.
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