Despite requests from many Oxford residents, Mayor Kate Rousmaniere and OPD Chief John Jones announced at a city council meeting on Tuesday that Oxford will not become a ‘sanctuary city’ in the near future.

The definition of ‘sanctuary city’ is murky at best: in some cases, a sanctuary city will not honor federal requests for the arrest of undocumented immigrants. Other sanctuary cities will offer services to all residents, regardless of immigration status.

Oxford will officially do neither. However, Jones said that Oxford police will also not play an active role in apprehending undocumented immigrants.

“If the federal government or Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) requests our assistance in serving a lawful warrant, we will assist,” Jones said. “But if we encounter an undocumented person who does not have a detainer or any sort of warrant from ICE, then we just treat them the same as we treat other citizens.”

In the United States, 38 municipalities in 16 states have collaborations with ICE called “287(g) agreements.” These deals provide training for local officers who will then be authorized to detain undocumented immigrants and enforce federal immigration laws within their jails. Butler County is the only region in Ohio with a 287(g) partnership.

OPD does not have such an agreement, nor do they wish to enter one, Jones says.

The mayor echoed Jones’ sentiments.

“Given such confusion of the status, if we declared it, a ‘sanctuary city,’ whatever that means, I think we’d get in trouble, legally,” Rousmaniere said. “I think we’d also become a bullseye for our sheriff and maybe  some of our state reps who seem to have no knowledge of the law or protocol or any sort of sensitivity to the issue.”

The topic is particularly relevant given Oxford’s state representation, Candice Keller (R-Middletown) is very opposed to the institution of sanctuary cities. Keller authored a bill for the Ohio General Assembly that would effectively ban sanctuary cities and punish the municipal lawmakers who establish them.

Oxford’s local government isn’t turning its back on undocumented immigrants, though: the city’s non-discrimination code specifically mentions race, color, ancestry and national origin.

“We have a civil rights code that covers immigrant status,” the mayor said. “Which is more encompassing than the state civil rights laws. So our city…we protect our citizens well.”