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To ensure continued support of immigrants, Lancaster passes Trust Act

Law protects immigrants and prohibits officials from seeking immigration status details

  • Gabriela Martínez/WITF
CASA members attended Lancaster City Council's meeting on Feb. 27, 2024 to see council member voting on the Trust Act.

 Jossie Flor Sapunar / CASA

CASA members attended Lancaster City Council's meeting on Feb. 27, 2024 to see council member voting on the Trust Act.

Lancaster City Council voted unanimously Tuesday to pass the Trust Act, an ordinance that requires the city to maintain welcoming policies for immigrants.

The city must maintain a “star rating of no less than 3 stars under Welcoming America’s Certified Welcoming Standard 2.0 star system.” 

Welcoming America designated Lancaster a “welcoming city” in 2019 because  its policies and programs promote inclusion and safety for immigrants. These policies include ensuring equal access to governmental programing and services, regardless of immigration status, as well helping develop an ethnically and racially diverse workforce.

Fidel Cedeño of the immigration rights group CASA was among the residents who testified in favor of the ordinance. He said he was proud of the advocacy efforts that helped make the Trust Act a reality. 

Cedeño, now a U.S. citizen, immigrated to the United States in 1983 from the Dominican Republic and has been a resident of Lancaster for more than a decade.

He said he likes the support and freedom the act will give to immigrants, especially those who are undocumented and “feel timid and afraid walking in the streets.”

Lancaster and Lebanon County GOP state senators Ryan Aument, Scott Martin and Chris Gebhard issued a statement Wednesday afternoon urging city council members to rescind the Trust Act.

“We are extremely alarmed at the Lancaster City Council’s decision to not cooperate with a federal law enforcement agency. Make no mistake, they are breaking the law and compromising the safety of Lancaster County residents.”

No one spoke out against the proposed ordinance at the meeting.

Lancaster’s Trust Act would prohibit city officials from inquiring about a person’s immigration status and from sharing information regarding that status to federal immigration authorities.

The city would assist with immigration enforcement only if there were a “direct threat to life or public safety,” or if there were a court order. Police may work with immigration officials if they are assigned as task force officers to Homeland Security Investigations.

“However, under no circumstances shall a Lancaster City Police Bureau member, or other official or employee, whether assigned to a task force or not, have the authority to enforce administrative violations of immigration law or otherwise assist in the enforcement of civil immigration law,” according to the ordinance.

Lancaster City Council Vice President Jaime Arroyo, who introduced the bill, said the act allows the city to codify existing practices and “ensure that every resident here feels welcomed and safe and receiving city services regardless of their immigration status.”

“This allows us to set the example and really set the tone for the rest of Lancaster County, and hopefully to state what cities can do to codify and lead by example, creating a safe and welcoming community,” Arroyo said.

Councilwoman Janet Diaz – who started discussions about the need for Lancaster Trust Act last year – asked for comment on the potential impact of a bill introduced by Republicans in the state House that would block municipalities from adopting policies that limit law enforcement officer cooperation with federal immigration authorities. It would require police officers who have “reasonable cause” to believe that someone is not legally in the country to notify  Immigration and Customs Enforcement. 

Daniel Alvalle, state director for CASA in Pennsylvania, said he has been in touch with Democratic Rep. Danilo Burgos from Philadelphia regarding the bill. 

He said that for now, there’s no need to be alarmed about this bill and that it hasn’t even been presented or taken out of committee,” Alvalle said.

That bill – deemed the “Sanctuary cities” bill– was referred to the House Judiciary Committee in November, but no further action has been taken.

The passage of the Trust Act ordinance is a victory for CASA – an organization that advocates for immigrant rights and the interests of Pennsylvania’s Latino communities. The group has been pushing for a Lancaster City Trust Act for more than a year.


“I think this translates more to having a community where a population is going to participate more. And they’re going to do it freely,” Alvalle said.

People will be able to reach out to the police or go to hospitals without fear that they will have to reveal their immigration status, Alvalle said.

The group plans to keep working with the police and other city officials and the immigrant community in Lancaster to make sure the ordinance is being implemented.

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