The city council in Lansing, Michigan, reversed its decision Wednesday to label itself a "sanctuary city" for illegal immigrants after local business owners criticized the decision.
Lansing City Council had previously voted to enact a policy directing police officers not to ask for citizenship status unless it was required by law or court order. Though the measure was originally voted in unanimously last week, city council members voted 5-2 to rescind the policy because business owners worried the term "sanctuary" would draw unwelcome attention to the city.
Michigan Chamber of Commerce and Lansing Regional Chamber sent a letter to the city council members after last week's resolution vote urging them to reconsider the language.
"Lansing is a diverse community, rich with history and culture. It's what makes our city a welcoming destination to live, work and thrive," the letter read. "Recent actions of City Council, whether intended or not, have placed an unnecessary target on the City of Lansing while jeopardizing millions of dollars in federal funding that impacts the city budget."
Immigration activists decried the move, calling city council members at the meeting "spineless."
"You're all losing your seats," some in the crowd told council members, according to Fox News.
Lansing called itself a "welcoming city" before the vote, and even after passing the "sanctuary city" language, council members say they did not intend to direct city workers to violate federal law as some sanctuary cities are doing.
"The term 'sanctuary' in the resolution has become very problematic and distracting — so distracting in my opinion that's it's taken away from the intent of our resolution, which is to protect individuals," said Councilwoman Judi Brown Clarke. "It's basically a 'don't ask' policy, which was outlined by the mayor's executive order and what we had in our policy complements that."
"I think ultimately what we learned is ... we thought we could define what 'sanctuary city' meant, and in actuality it has its own negative connotation," she said. "The only way to take that away is to take that word away," she added.
Michigan Chamber President and CEO Richard Studley said the city council should "stop wasting time on costly political statements and focus on real economic issues."
"I have no problem with the earlier resolution that affirmed the city's status as a welcoming city," he said. "The challenge is with the language declaring the city a 'sanctuary city' — adopted hastily with little debate. I think that it is easily misinterpreted or misunderstood."
The shift comes as Michigan lawmakers debate whether to pass a law prohibiting local officials from enacting rules that would prevent city workers from cooperating with federal authorities regarding immigration.