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Sunday, January 16, 2022

Erin McConnell refreshed her online petition every 10 minutes, hoping others shared her hope of turning Gainesville into a city of solace for immigrants.

Ever since creating the petition Saturday night, in the hopes of making Gainesville a sanctuary city, the 46-year-old Gainesville resident has watched the number of signatures grow to more than 370.

The petition reads, “In light of the recent Donald Trump Executive Order on Muslim immigration, we are calling on Mayor of Gainesville Lauren Poe to declare Gainesville an immigrant Sanctuary City,” one that protects undocumented immigrants from prosecution or deportation.

“We are all immigrants in this country,” she said. “We should set an example for other cities.”

On Jan. 25, Trump signed an executive order threatening to cut federal funding to “sanctuary jurisdictions,” those that did not report undocumented immigrants to the federal government, according to NPR.

On social media, Poe has spoken out against the threat before but did not explicitly voice a hope to make Gainesville a sanctuary of any kind.

At about 4 p.m. today, as part of a different campaign, Poe will receive one of 150 signs that the nonprofit Welcoming Gainesville has been giving away for a $10 donation, said Richard MacMaster, the chairman of the organization’s board.

The signs, written in English, Arabic and Spanish, say: “No matter where you’re from, we’re glad you’re our neighbor.”

“I think it fits the spirit of Gainesville very strongly,” MacMaster, 82, said. “It seems to be something that people want to say.”

Joy Pitts, a 34-year-old Gainesville resident, signed the petition Saturday and shared it on her Facebook profile, because she said she believes it’s important to defend undocumented immigrants.

She said making Gainesville a sanctuary city would reduce crime rates. Because undocumented immigrants fear deportation, they are less likely to report a crime, Pitts said.

“Our city is safer when everyone works together,” she said. “If our police doesn’t worry about (federal immigration policy), they can just worry about doing their job.”

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