Broward County Commissioners passed a resolution this week declaring Broward County an "inclusive and welcoming" county for all residents and visitors irrespective of race, religion, ethnicity or national origin.
The resolution was sponsored by Commissioner Nan Rich. "We are a country of immigrants with a long proud legacy of providing safe refuge for those seeking opportunity and freedom and democracy. We need to speak out to make sure our voices are heard as we uphold the basic values upon which this country was founded," said Rich.
"We are a country that values people and ensures that human rights are protected and Broward County leads the way in that regard. Diversity is our great strength," said Commissioner Dale V.C. Holness, a co-sponsor of the resolution.
The adopted resolution comes in the wake of new federal immigration policies. Commissioners were generally supportive of the resolution, but noted that Broward County follows all immigration laws and is not a "sanctuary" county. Cities or counties not adhering to immigration laws stand to lose federal and state funding.
"We're sending a message. But we also have to protect the county from having some type of punitive action taken with respect to our financial ratings and whatever other funding we receive directly from the federal government or through the state. I don't want to have that on our shoulders," said Commissioner Tim Ryan.
"We are not a sanctuary county, we are following all immigration laws. I don't want our bond ratings implicated by being accused of something we have not done. We are passing a resolution saying we are welcoming community, that's completely appropriate and should not implicate our bond rating," said Commissioner Steve Geller.
"We have as a Commission and Board taken a position long ago to welcome all people to Broward County through establishment of our Human Rights Act and the creation of the Human Rights Board. Passage of this resolution is not going to protect people if the federal law changes. The reality is that we do not have any jurisdiction over federal immigration laws and this resolution does not change that fact," said Mayor Barbara Sharief.
Commissioner Chip LaMarca was the sole opposition vote. "I support being inclusive. But, I think this is 'feel good' resolution. It doesn't change laws. This doesn't put us in a good position as we ask for hundreds of millions of dollars in federal and state funds. If someone wants to take your money, they can do it. So, I can't support this," said LaMarca.
Dozens of people spoke in support of the resolution, many of them Broward County residents who told Commissioners they fear the impact that the new immigration laws will have on themselves and family members.