Orlando adopts policy barring police from asking law-abiding people about immigration status

ORLANDO, Fla. — The Orlando City Council on Monday unanimously adopted a new policy that changes the way police officers and other city employees interact with the immigrant community.

City employees, including police officers, won't be allowed to ask law-abiding individuals about their immigration status or discriminate against them because of that status or their ability to speak English.

Officials want the thousands of undocumented immigrants living in Orlando to feel comfortable talking to investigators, especially if they’re a victim of or a witness to a crime.

Download the free WFTV News & Weather apps

Philadelphia, Chicago and Boston have similar rules in place, according to the Trust Coalition.

Dozens of supporters held a rally outside Orlando City Hall on Monday.

Activist Ahtziry Berrera, who is a Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals recipient, said undocumented people have had a complicated relationship with law enforcement.

"It's always been this awkward relationship, because you look for your police to keep you safe ... when anything goes wrong," she said. "If we don't have trust to begin with, then the community won't report crimes."

Berrera said the policy will open doors for undocumented immigrants and foster cooperation between them and police.

"Their voice will be heard," she said.

Read: Puerto Rican evacuees get another extension on housing

It’s not the first time social activists have called for immigrant protections.

In March 2017, State Rep. Carlos Guillermo Smith, D-Orlando, along with several social justice organizations, such as the Trust Coalition, rallied to pass a similar measure in the state’s capital.

They had hoped to prevent local and state government and law enforcement from sharing an individual's immigration status with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security or Immigration and Customs Enforcement unless required by a warrant. That measure never gained traction.

Viral video, must-see stories and breaking news: Follow WFTV on Facebook

"If you simply report crime or if you have a traffic stop, you will not be led to deportation," Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer said Monday.

Orlando City Commissioner Tony Ortiz said the policy is not a step toward making Orlando a sanctuary city.

"We will not become a sanctuary city. A sanctuary city would have holding cells and harbor criminals. We don't do that," he said. "We'll continue to cooperate with the federal government, but when it's local issues, we need to make sure that our citizens are safe and secure in the city of Orlando."

The city said it will abide by all state and federal laws. The policy said police officers will fill out a visa form that could help some undocumented immigrants become citizens if they're a victim of domestic violence or human trafficking.