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Demonstrators want Mayor Stoney to declare Richmond a sanctuary city

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RICHMOND, Va. -- Chants prompted cheers and honking from passerbys who indicated support for the hundreds gathered outside the Federal courthouse in Richmond to send a message of unity after President Donald Trump signed a flurry of executive orders ramping up immigration enforcement.

“This is the beginning of the long haul coalition of people coming together after Trump’s Executive Orders attacking specific communities,” organizer Carolina Velez with the Wayside Center for Popular Education, said.

The group wants Richmond Mayor Levar Stoney and City Council to declare the city a sanctuary that will not enforce federal immigration laws.

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“There is no reason local jails and local police have to collaborate with ICE, no reason period,” Velez said.

The mayor told CBS 6 last week that Richmond is not a sanctuary city, yet, he said it is welcoming to all and the city will protect all of its residents, legal or not.

Richmond Police Chief Alfred Durham said officers do not check resident’s immigration status.

Moreover, Claire Gastanaga, the Executive Director of the ACLU Virginia, said Virginia law requires immigration status to be checked of anyone taken into custody.

“So ICE gets notice when someone is admitted to jail and their fingerprints submitted. There is no choice. Every locality complies with state law,” Gastanaga said.

“We need our mayor to step it up and say this is a sanctuary city, we will protect our people,” Jennyfer Hernandez, who was born in Mexico but grew up in Chesterfield, said.

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President Trump threatened to pull all federal funding from so-called sanctuary cities, and the Hispanic residents we talked to said they are fearful.

“Do you know people that are genuinely scared now?” CBS 6 reporter Melissa Hipolit asked a woman named Maria through a translator.

“Yes, I have talked to several people. They have fear, and, especially, I’ve talked to children… they are afraid that their families are going to be separated,” Maria responded in Spanish.

Still, there are many people that agree with the President that immigration enforcement needs to be improved.

Delegate Bob Marshall (R-Prince William) is sponsoring a bill that would mandate local jails hold people identified by immigration enforcement as being illegal for an additional 48 hours after their release so the feds can pick them up.

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“I’m not dranconian. I’m trying to protect the public out here, because if you don’t do this people are going to understand well the feds are really not serious about this and one of the things Mr. Trump said was we’ve got to get serious about people who commit crimes in the country and deport them,” Marshall said.

There is another bill moving through the General Assembly that would bar localities from instituting any sanctuary type policies.

We tried to talk to the patron of the bill, Delegate Charles Poindexter, but his aide said he only does television interviews with media located in his district.