CINCINNATI – Does Mayor John Cranley's goal of making Cincinnati the most immigration friendly city in America mean not enforcing the law?
Police Chief Jeffrey Blackwell says police won't aggressively go after undocumented aliens in town.
"We're trying to make this the safest big city in America, and there's a lot involved with that. And going after undocumented illegals is not part of that," Blackwell said Thursday.
Blackwell is one of the 78 members of the immigration task force Cranley introduced Thursday at Music Hall.
Cranley's office issued a statement to WCPO on Friday because the mayor said he was concerned the chief's remarks may be misunderstood.
“My Immigration Task Force is focused on people who are involved in coming to this country legally. It is the city’s policy and practice to enforce all existing laws," Cranley stated in the release. "We will not selectively enforce laws, and that is a message I have given to the city manager and police chief so it can be relayed to everyone throughout the administration.”
Local resident Richard Hicks says he applauds the effort in principle, as long as immigrants are here legally.
"Is it going to be good for the area or bad for the area? We don't know," Hicks said.
"I think they should be above board – documented - before they get everything we're going to give them," Hicks said.
An artist from Peru, Josko Chavez, said he hadn't heard about the task force but called it "a great idea."
Chavez says making the city a welcoming place for foreigners is full of benefits.
"If you have more variety, you have more options, more choices," Chavez said. "Yes, that will also increment the amount of people who would like to invest in the city."
UC President Santa Ono, another member of the task force, is an immigrant from Canada. He's determined to meet the goal.
"We will make the City of Cincinnati the most immigration friendly city in America," Ono said.
Another task force member, architect Tom Fernandez, whose parents came here from Cuba, says it's only right to give others the same opportunity.
"Our principal motivation is that it is our obligation, our obligation to pay it forward – to create the same opportunities that others have created for us," Fernandez said.
Cranley said welcoming immigrants will make Cincinnati more competitive.
“We want to attract capital, innovation, productivity, excitement,” Cranley said. “That makes us all better.”
Multiple studies show immigration has a positive impact on U.S. cities & is essential to remain competitive pic.twitter.com/Vceb8AWkL1— John Cranley (@JohnCranley) July 24, 2014
The task force is expected to submit its recommendations by Dec. 1.