Pine Bluff could become state’s first sanctuary city

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PINE BLUFF, Ark. — A Pine Bluff alderman wants the city to be the first in the state to officially declare it as a safe place for immigrants.

Sanctuary cities made headlines a few years ago since they try to put limits on federal immigration laws.

The proposed ordinance is backed by Alderman Steven Mays. He calls is a good faith gestures to show city government will not discriminate against anyone based on where they are from.

Alderman Bruce Lockett thinks the proposal could help the city as it struggles with population decline, but says he’s not rushing his full support.

“When I was coming up the motto for Pine Bluff was, ‘the city who loves people.’ This legislation is positive in telling people of diverse background that Pine Bluff is a place you wouldn’t face discrimination,” Lockett said. “On the face of it I support it, I’m a pretty liberal guy, but at the same time we have to look at the ramifications.”

If the ordinance passes there is a chance the city could lose state funding. Earlier this year Gov. Asa Hutchinson signed a law that punishes cities for not following federal immigration requirements.

“We need all the funds we can plus some,” said Alderman Ivan Whitfield. “At this time we shouldn’t take anything away from a city that is trying to come back from a setback.”

There are questions if the proposal truly sets up a sanctuary city, since it includes several points that say state and federal immigration would still apply.

Monday night’s city council meeting is a first reading, so there won’t be a deciding vote.

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