Bexley City Council is considering a resolution that would affirm "Bexley as a welcoming community" for immigrants and refugees.
The resolution, which was introduced May 23, declares that Bexley "welcomes all residents and visitors, including immigrants and refugees seeking new homes, safety, freedom and opportunity (so they) feel welcome, safe and able to fully participate in and contribute to our city's economic and social life."
The resolution was sponsored by council members Lori Ann Feibel, Mary Gottesman, Steve Keyes, Troy Markham, Deneese Owen and council President Tim Madison. Madison said the resolution was initiated, drafted and submitted by a coalition of neighborhood groups known as East Side People Power, which includes several Bexley residents.
"This was not council's initiative," Madison said during a second reading of the resolution on June 13. "I want to thank the residents for bringing this to council's attention."
"People Power" is an initiative started by the American Civil Liberties Union, whose website describes the movement.
"People Power is, at its core, a grassroots member-mobilization project," according to the site. Through People Power, the ACLU engages volunteers across the country to take action when President Donald J. Trump or his administration attempts to enact certain immigration policies.
Madison said the resolution was initiated in response to proposals by Trump's administration that could limit immigration from some countries.
"I think it's unacceptable, and I think it's unacceptable at the federal level and the state level, and it's certainly unacceptable in Bexley," Madison said. "We want everyone to know that as long as they're good people, we want them here, despite religion, despite nationality."
As part of Trump's most recent immigration executive order, which has been blocked temporarily by a Maryland-based federal judge and is expected to be heard by the U.S. Supreme Court, citizens from six Muslim-majority countries -- Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen -- would be prohibited from obtaining new visas.
The order also would suspend the U.S. resettlement program for 120 days and reduce the annual number of refugee admissions for fiscal year 2017 to 50,000 from the originally scheduled 110,000.
Rooselvelt Avenue resident Tim Katz said East Side People Power has a membership of about 50 people who live in and near Bexley. He said the group began drafting the resolution earlier this year.
Councilman Richard Sharp unsuccessfully proposed an amendment to the resolution that would have added the term "legal" before references to "residents and visitors."
Sharp also proposed adding a paragraph, which was not adopted, that would have specified that "the health and safety of all residents, immigrants and visitors is negatively affected if there are not national systems in place to screen visitors with nonnative diseases, criminal histories and terrorist affiliations."
Sharp also suggested adding language advocating nondiscrimination against immigrants who come to the United States fleeing persecution for religious, sexual-orientation and gender-identity reasons.
"Those people should have preferential treatment if they're being persecuted to come into this country, and I believe it is totally appropriate," Sharp said, adding he could not support the resolution without his proposed amendments.
Mayor Ben Kessler said he supports the resolution. Kessler said he and police Capt. Ken Gough met with East Side People Power to ensure the resolution met the city's policies that enable police to enforce laws but not become embroiled in federal immigration issues.
"We want our residents and the greater Columbus community to know that we're not discriminating against anyone based on nationality or any of the other protected classes," he said.
Council members are scheduled to hold a public hearing at the third and final reading of the resolution, set for 6 p.m. June 27 at Bexley City Hall, 2242 E. Main St.
In Columbus, City Council on June 5 approved legislation that bans the "denial of city services based upon immigration status, solicitation of information about immigration status, use of city resources for the sole purpose of detecting or apprehending an individual based upon suspected immigration status, and investigating a person's immigration status."
The city's code prohibits Columbus employees, including police officers, from arresting or denying someone services based only on their immigration status. The code reflects an executive order Mayor Andrew J. Ginther issued earlier this year to establish the policies.
ThisWeek reporter Gary Seman Jr. contributed to this story.