New Orlando policy could strengthen protections for undocumented immigrants

Fair Treatment of All policy scheduled to go into effect Monday

ORLANDO, Fla. – In some parts of the U.S., routine traffic stops can mean potential deportation for undocumented immigrants. A new Orlando policy, if passed, will afford immigrants in Central Florida more protections when it comes to revealing their immigration status.

The Fair Treatment of All Trust Act Policy will be voted on during a city council meeting Monday. Conditions of the policy include fair treatment of all citizens by the Orlando Police Department, Fire Department and other local agencies when a crime is being investigated. That includes not having to provide immigration status.

"This applies to crime victims, witnesses, reporters, non-criminal traffic offenders and others who have contact with an Orlando police officer," the policy states.

OPD Chief John Mina said the department already practices this under its own guidelines, known as the "Bias-Free Policy."

The new policy would also entail equal distribution of city resources to anyone, including any potential undocumented immigrants, including the right to fair due process.

Another facet of the policy is the potential for distribution of U Visas, which are visas that allow victims of crimes to remain in the U.S. for the duration of that crime's investigation.

Local attorney Gail Seeram said in June that President Trump's "zero tolerance policy" toward immigration left many of her clients in the Central Florida area  in a state of panic.

"They're worried," Seeram said. "They want to secure their status in the United States."

If the new policy passes, it will not make Orlando a "sanctuary city," as areas that have policies in place to limit cooperation with federal immigration agencies are often called.

Federal authorities would still be able to come to Orlando to detain undocumented immigrants as well as instruct Orlando police to conduct an arrest "if required by federal law." The policy explicitly states that it will not prevent cooperation with federal immigration authorities.

Orlando City Commissioner Tony Ortiz stressed that while Orlando will not be a "sanctuary city," officials are not trying to deport immigrants.

The intention behind the new policy is to strengthen the public's trust in local law enforcement. 

"The City of Orlando prides itself on the positive relationship that it has maintained with the City’s resident population, including its immigrant community, and maintenance of positive relationships are key to keeping our neighborhoods safe," the policy states.