Roeland Park adopts ‘safe and welcoming’ ordinance that limits police’s work with ICE

Unless there is a public safety threat or crime in progress, Roeland Park police officers will not provide resources or assistance to Immigration and Customs Enforcement. File photo.

The Roeland Park City Council this week adopted a much-discussed ordinance regarding immigration that, among other things, puts new limits on how the city will work with federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

Advocates have cast the ordinance as a “self and welcoming” measure that will help build trust between the city and Roeland Park’s immigrant community.

A similar ordinance is on the books already in neighboring Wyandotte County and has been discussed in other Kansas cities, including Lawrence.

Roeland Park first discussed a version of the measure in October 2019, though no formal action was taken at that time. Over the last year, the city has been working with a group of residents called Safe and Welcoming Roeland Park to develop the new ordinance.

‘What makes sense for our city’

The ordinance’s main provision says Roeland Park Police will not provide support or assistance to ICE for the “sole purpose” of enforcing an immigration or citizenship matter, unless there is a threat to public safety or a crime in progress.

The ordinance does not include other items that had been specifically requested by some immigrant residents and the Safe and Welcoming group — including a provision requiring a judicial warrant prior to police involvement with ICE.

But Grant Mayfield, a Roeland Park resident and one of the founders of Safe and Welcoming Roeland Park, still encouraged councilmembers to vote in favor of it at Monday’s meeting.

“This ordinance is a good one because it considered what others have done around the country and in our region, and it has been thoroughly vetted by advocates for immigrant rights and advocates for the development of Roeland Park,” Mayfield said. “It’s what makes sense for our city and for this moment in time.”

Some opposition voiced in past

At the behest of the ACLU of Kansas, Roeland Park began considering and publicly discussing a “safe and welcoming” measure in September 2019. That drew the attention of then-U.S. Senate candidate and former Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, who criticized the measure.

Nobody spoke out against the ordinance on Monday, though residents and councilmembers have voiced opposition in the past.

At the October 2019 meeting, Councilmember Claudia McCormack said she would not support such an ordinance because it had “proven to cause more division in the community than intended.”

Other residents at that time said they opposed it because immigration itself was such a partisan political issue.

Ultimately, the city council unanimously approved the new version of the ordinance Monday.

Mayor Mike Kelly said the ordinance’s adoption isn’t an endpoint — the value comes from implementing the welcoming elements into the community, specifically to immigrant residents, he said.

“I think tonight we’re sending a pretty clear and resolute message to our community that we stand with immigrants and we are a community for all,” Kelly said. “A local government’s ability to protect and to serve all of our people is enhanced when the community feels safe coming to report as a victim or to report a crime.”

Policy details

Below are the main points of the new ordinance, which can be found in its entirety in city documents here:

  • The police department will not provide resources or assistance to ICE “for the sole purpose of enforcement of immigration or citizenship status.” If there’s a “threat to public safety or a crime in progress,” Roeland Park Police can step in and assist.
  • The department will alert the public immediately — without violating state or federal laws — if they become aware that ICE or other federal immigration officers are operating or are planning to operate in the city.
  • The municipal court will not ask individuals charged with a crime about their immigration status unless it is required by law.
  • City employees will accept any valid photo identification with a person’s name rather than requiring individuals to provide specific immigration identification.