By Cameron Knight | on 25 March 2017
Hundreds of people gathered outside of Cincinnati's city hall Monday evening at a rally supporting Muslims and refugees. The Enquirer/Carrie Cochran
Several hundred demonstrators rallied Monday at City Hall to support Muslims, immigrants and refugees following President Donald Trump's executive order that suspending immigration from seven majority-Muslim countries.
"Unfortunately, it's been busier lately," said Sack, a Northside resident. He said his group want immigrants and Muslims to know "they are not alone, that they are loved, that they are welcomed, and that there are Americans who stand with them and do not support the bans, do not support the bigotry that's coming out of the White House."
The rally was announced Sunday and called for Cincinnati to be declared a sanctuary city and for officials to take steps to further protect immigrants
However, Mayor John Cranley preemptively held a press conference Monday afternoon announcing that Cincinnati has been a sanctuary city for years and will remain one.
"This city opposes the executive orders to halt refugee settlements and targeting cities that are trying to live up to the promise of the Statue of Liberty," Cranley said.
Demonstrator held anti-Trump signs and displayed messages against hate and discrimination. Hyde Park resident Khandan Razvannejad held a sign that said she was a mother, a teacher, a Shia Muslim, an American, an Iranian, but not a terrorist.
"With what President Trump has brought to us, I don't feel welcome here anymore," said Razvannejad, who said she holds dual citizenship.
She said her parents, who hold green cards, can't visit her, and now that the Iranian government has banned U.S. citizens in retaliation, she cannot visit them.
The 46-year-old said she had never participated in a protest, but has taken part in two since Trump's inauguration.
"I just don't want to live under fear and under discrimination," Razvannejad said.
Emily Houh of Oakley brought her 8- and 11-year-old sons to the rally Monday. Houh said she was born in Detroit after her parents came to America in the 1960s after President Johnson signed the Immigration and Nationality Act, which lifted the quotas on immigration from Asian countries and eliminated national origin, race, and ancestry as basis for immigration. Johnson signed the bill into law at the foot of the Statue of Liberty in 1965.
"I feel like what's happening right now goes against everything the country stands for, or should stand for," Houh said. "We've made mistakes like this in the past with Chinese exclusion...I just feel like we're repeating history."
Locally, the city has taken steps to be more "immigrant friendly" during Cranley's administration.
- In March 2015, the police department adopted a policy that its officer would not enforce federal immigration laws. By that, officers are not allowed to "stop, detain, question or arrest a person solely on the basis that the individual may have unlawfully entered the country” or overstayed a visa, according to the policy.
- Last year, the city approved recognition of an identification card that can be obtained by illegal immigrants, refugees from foreign nations and other vulnerable people living in Cincinnati. The MARCC ID, which is produced and distributed by two faith-based organizations, are officially recognized by Cincinnati police and all city departments.
- Cincinnati Compass was set up last November as an online portal to help connect immigrants, even those who are here illegally, to jobs and universities. The city put $50,000 into the project. The Cincinnati USA Regional, University of Cincinnati, Xavier University, Northern Kentucky and several other community partners invested $200,000 into the program. Compass was an idea from an immigration task force Cranley set up after he was elected in 2013.
Last week, Butler County Sheriff Richard K. Jones issued a statement calling for government officials to pull funding from any city in Ohio that claims to be a "sanctuary city" for immigrants.
There was a lone counter-protestor at the rally on Monday. The man shouted, "Real Americans support Trump," and was met with jeers from demonstrators. He twice approached the crowd and was shouted down.
City officials including the mayor and several members of council attended the demonstration. Councilman Chris Seelbach said he has been working for months with Councilwoman Yvette Simpson to create "sanctuary city" policies, which will be revealing in coming months.
"The times are changing. With President Trump, a lot of us feel uneasy and even unsafe," Seelbach said. "As a city, we have to do everything we can to protect those who are most vulnerable to his policies which we think are un-American and exclusionary."
Enquirer reporter Jason Williams contributed to this report.
This article was first posted on http://www.cincinnati.com/story/news/2017/01/30/protestors-call-city-protect-immigrants/97255754/