Sarasota Sanctuary City - You'd got to be kidding.
Two Stories - Two Videos - April 2017

Sanctuary city protesters filled area streets

by Bobeth Yates 

SARASOTA FL (WWSB - Ch 7 MySuncoast) -- Protesters and counter protesters took to the streets of downtown Sarasota.  The groups were voicing their concerns about the possibility of Sarasota becoming a sanctuary city.

"No hate, no fare, immigrants are welcomed here," chanted a crowd of protesters. Their message is one that has literally divided the community. On one side, are those who support sanctuary cities; on the other, those in opposition.

"This is America, speak the language," yelled a counter protester.

The issue has come to the forefront as Sarasota residents head to the polls to cast their ballots for the next city commissioner.



"Recently a city commission candidate stated that she wanted to make Sarasota a sanctuary city. That upsets a lot of Sarasotans," said Republican Caucus State Committeeman, Christian Ziegler.

Ziegler is referring to Jennifer Ahearn-Koch.  But while she does express support for the idea of sanctuary cities throughout the country, in a statement Ahearn-Koch told ABC7, her words are being misconstrued. 

"This is an outright lie and a desperate political trick that is as old as time," Ahearn-Koch said. "Fear mongering as a diversion from the real issues. I was the top vote-getter in the primary. I have the support of the voters and I'm the candidate who knows the most about the issues. I'm the candidate with the most experience in the city.

"Fortunately, we have an educated electorate who knows I've been actively protecting the city for 20 years and I would never do anything to hurt our community. I wish Mr. Hyde would move away from fear mongering and discuss the real city issues our community needs."

But what Ahearn-Koch said or didn't say isn't stopping protesters. Sean Sellers, with the organization "All of Us Sarasota", was among those protesting. He says his group is fighting for immigrant rights but also hopes to help people understand the real meaning of a sanctuary city.

"We believe that human rights are universal," Sellers said. "And you can't decide who does or does not receive human rights."

"I think they're extreme," said Ziegler. "I think they ridiculous. They're advocating for breaking the law and ignoring the law and that's a very dangerous precedent to set in our city." 

So what is a sanctuary city? It's a city that limits its cooperation with the national government effort to enforce immigration law. Supporters say it shifts the immigration enforcement to the federal government by removing it from local municipalities.

Broadcast on Sarasota's local ABC affiliate.

Part of the New College (USF) political science forum on sanctuary cities.

Not mentioned in the articles is Fredd Atkins, a civic /civil rights leader whose name adorns a park in Newtown, was first elected to the City Commission in 1985 and eventually becoming the city of Sarasota’s first black mayor.

Jennifer Ahearn-Koch is cast in the same mold as ex-Democrat Party head, Debbie Wasserman Schultz. Rumor has it they use the same hairdresser.

The issue received some social media buzz when the Republican Party of Sarasota drew attention to a video of Democratic candidate Jennifer Ahearn-Koch.

by Zac Anderson 

SARASOTA FL (Herald Tribune) Immigration politics have not been a focal point of the Sarasota City Commission campaign, but the issue received some social media buzz Tuesday when the Republican Party of Sarasota drew attention to a video of Democratic candidate Jennifer Ahearn-Koch advocating for exploring “the option of being a sanctuary city.

The video is from a candidate forum at New College last month. It was posted on the Sarasota GOP’s Facebook page Tuesday morning. By Tuesday evening the video had been viewed more than 8,000 times and shared more than 200 times.

New College political science professor and former Democratic state Senate candidate Frank Alcock moderated the forum. He is not in the clip highlighted by the Sarasota GOP, but a longer video published on YouTube shows him starting the sanctuary question by noting that “we’ve seen a wave of municipal governments sort of declaring sanctuary status, we’ve seen it on campus as well.”

“As a city commissioner would you like to see Sarasota wade into these waters or lie low?” Alcock asked the candidates.

Ahearn-Koch responds by first noting that the definition of what constitutes a sanctuary city is “pretty vague.”

“But from my end if we are going to be a city and a community that encompasses all people of the city, all of our community, then yes we definitely need to consider the option of being a sanctuary city where we can protect our citizens, each and every one of them,” she said.

One of Ahearn-Koch’s opponents, Republican Martin Hyde, says in the same video that is “outrageous” to advocate that the city take on the federal government over immigration enforcement.

The other Democrat in the race, Hagen Brody, says that “it’s a federal issue that needs to be dealt with at the federal level.”

Led by President Donald Trump, Republicans have been pushing to crack down on sanctuary jurisdictions that do not fully comply with federal immigration authorities. Trump emphasized the issue on the campaign trail and released an executive order shortly after being elected that directed government agencies to withhold federal grant money from sanctuary communities.

Florida lawmakers are considering doing the same, advancing legislation that prohibits sanctuary jurisdictions from receiving state grants, among other penalties.

As a result, some communities have backed away from their sanctuary policies. Others are standing firm or even adopting new provisions. Cities such Seattle and San Francisco have sued the federal government over Trump’s executive order.

“Federal funding that bears no meaningful relationship to immigration enforcement cannot be threatened merely because a jurisdiction chooses an immigration enforcement strategy of which the president disapproves,” wrote U.S. District Judge William Orrick.

Contentious and highly partisan, the immigration debate has only grown more polarizing since Trump made it the focus of his campaign.

The Sarasota GOP’s Facebook post says Ahearn-Koch’s openness to Sarasota becoming a sanctuary city demonstrates a “willingness to put the residents and tourists in Sarasota at risk by harboring criminals.”

Supporters of sanctuary policies worry that individuals who have lived in the country for years without attracting law enforcement attention could be swept up and deported under the Trump administration for minor crimes, or simply because of their immigration status.

Ahearn-Koch said in an interview Tuesday that she is a “detail oriented person” and would want to hear all the pros and cons of adopting any sanctuary policies, including potential state and federal financial penalties, before moving forward. She also reiterated that the sanctuary label tends to be loosely applied, and said she’d like to get more information on what constitutes a sanctuary policy.

“What we have to do first is define it and from there you have city attorneys and city staff look at it and look at what other cities are doing,” she said. “There’s a whole process.”