State Sen. Vincent Fort pledged to declare Atlanta a “sanctuary city” if he wins the mayor’s race in November, saying he’s willing to defy Donald Trump’s order to halt federal grants to communities that don’t comply with federal immigration laws.
The Atlanta Democrat told thousands of demonstrators massed at the airport on Sunday to rally against Trump’s refugee policies that if Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed won’t make the declaration then he will.
“I don’t know about you, but we’re going to fight to make sure that Atlanta is a refuge from evil,” he said. “I know a thing about politics: We want Atlanta to be a sanctuary city before January 2018. But if it’s not, it will be when I become mayor.”
It’s the latest in a string of left-leaning promises from Fort, who has made no secret that he’s trying to model his bid on Bernie Sanders’ insurgent presidential campaign. He’s called for the decriminalization of marijuana, free tuition at Atlanta city colleges and has Sanders’ full-throated endorsement.
A handful of major cities – and dozens of smaller ones – have declared themselves “sanctuary cities.” Though the meaning varies widely, it typically signals that the city won’t work with federal immigration authorities to hand over people in the country illegally.
Reed has said Atlanta will be a “welcoming” city that is open to all and he has condemned Trump’s immigration policies. But he’s stopped short of declaring Atlanta a “sanctuary.”
Such a move could have vast financial consequences. Trump last week signed an executive order that seeks to strip federal grant funding from cities that defy federal immigration rules – although many big-city mayors are preparing to fight that move in court.
Several Georgia universities have also threatened to declare themselves “sanctuary campuses,” even if it means facing retribution from state lawmakers and the Trump administration.
Speaking to protesters on Sunday, Fort signaled he’s also willing to take that risk.
“We are a nation of fighters. I know by your presence here, you’re ready to fight,” he told the crowd. “The only thing I want to tell you is that Atlanta ought to be a sanctuary city.”
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