CINCINNATI -- Mayor John Cranley declared Cincinnati a "sanctuary city" for immigrants during a news conference Monday.
"This city stands with immigrants. This city stands with Muslims. This city stands with Syrian refugees yearning to breath free," Cranley said, pausing at times for applause. "This city has been for years, and will remain a sanctuary city."
The comments came after President Donald Trump signed an executive order banning citizens from seven Muslim-majority countries from entering the U.S. Friday.
The term "sanctuary city" does not have a single definition, but generally refers means that local law enforcement agencies will not turn over individuals to Immigration and Customs Enforcement solely because they entered the country illegally.
Police Chief Eliot Isaac said the Cincinnati Police Department "will not be enforcing immigration laws."
However, Hamilton County Sheriff Jim Neil said deputies would continue to follow their same policies, which could include contacting Immigration and Customs Enforcement for help identifying people in custody who they can't identify and may be foreign nationals.
"People are asking me whether I'm taking the conservative or liberal side, and I tell them I'm taking the side of the law," Neil said. "I was elected sheriff, and as sheriffs we don't wrote the laws like legislators. We enforce the laws, whether federal, state or local."
In a letter accompanying his speech, Cranley wrote about various initiatives in place to make Cincinnati welcome for immigrants, including the city's Immigrant Friendly Task Force, the Cincinnati Chamber of Commerce's COMPASS resource center and ongoing support from Catholic Charities.
"Syrians are fleeing unspeakable violence and oppression and their plight should remind us of the ideals etched into the base of our Statue of Liberty," Cranley wrote. "Of course, Syrian refugees should continue to be properly vetted, but if the United States halts all Syrian refugee settlement, it will ultimately be viewed historically in the same way as the refusal to settle Jews during the Holocaust."
Trump's executive order, signed Friday, bans citizens from Iraq, Syria, Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan and Yemen from entering the U.S. for at least the next 90 days and stops the admission of all refugees to the U.S. for four months.
The order quickly drew criticism locally, across the country and from some foreign leaders. Protestors gathered at Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport and at other airports around the country to voice their opposition to the order. Ohio Gov. John Kasich called the order "ham-handed." Iranian leaders responded by saying they would ban U.S. citizens from entering their country.
Trump defended the ban on Sunday, saying it would protect the U.S. from terrorists. Zac Haines, the president of the Symmes-Loveland Republican Club, said he believed Trump's ban was justified.
"He inheritied an inadequate and broken vetting process," Haines said. "A lot of these seven countries are failed states. They don't have the ability to help us share data with vetting and some of these are frankly enemies of the U.S., like Iran. So I think what President Trump did is the responsible thing."
Cranley was joined Monday by local religious and community leaders. Karen Dabdoub, the executive director of the Cincinnati chapter of Council on American Islamic Relations, said that Trump's order was "tearing apart the fabric of our nation."
"We are all Americans and we are all important to the strength of the fabric of this nation," she said.