New Castle County Executive Matt Meyer signed an executive order at the Bear Public Library Wednesday addressing undocumented residents in the county.
It clarifies the county’s policy in four areas – law enforcement, cooperation with federal authorities, the collection and sharing of immigration status information and access to county services.
Provisions include telling county police not to search or detain people solely on suspicion of immigration status – and ordering county staff not to cooperate with ICE without a warrant.
Meyer stresses the order is not a political gesture.
“Our goal here is not to play into some national game – bucking up or agreeing or disagreeing with any federal immigration policy," Meyer said. "It’s to clarify what our county government is doing, what we’re doing for you, how we’re using your taxpayer dollar and making sure those living, working, playing across our county are aware of what that work is.”
Instead, he says its aim is to protect the public health and safety of residents. He says it’s also intended to allay fears within the undocumented immigrant community – and reassure them of their safety and access to county resources.
“Over the past few months we have noticed anecdotally in public safety, in our libraries, in our county sports programs and across various groups and organizations - both within county government and outside – a decreasing level of participation among immigrant groups," Meyer said.
Adriana Camacho-Church is a library specialist for New Castle County’s public libraries and confirmed a recent drop in attendance in a computer class for Spanish speakers.
“There is a decrease, there is a decrease," Camacho-Church said. "We had 12 on the list and maybe only like 4 showed up."
That drop took place just over the last two months.
“We want the Hispanic population to know about these programs and to keep coming to our libraries and take advantage of these services because it’s good for them," she said. "It improves their lives and their English skills and it’s an overall benefit to the community.”
And Literacy Delaware Executive Director Cindy Shermeyer says ever since the presidential election last November, she’s seen a big drop in attendance at one of her ESL programs for moms of young children in partnership with Wilmington's HeadStart.
"We noticed right then and there those numbers were down," Shermeyer said. "I’ve been wondering if it’s because of the political climate."
She says the program has steadily enrolled 25-30 people over the last five years, but this year only 17 registered.
"Anecdotally we’ve been told – through word of mouth - that folks don’t want to sign up for anything because they’re afraid their information will go somewhere else," Shermeyer said. "They just go to work, go home and that’s it."
Meyer says lawyers have vetted the policy, and he doesn’t anticipate any pushback from federal officials.
He’s unaware of similar measures being considered in Kent or Sussex County.
The Bear Public Library is hosting a free bilingual Q&A session on Thursday June 15th at 6:30 p.m. for the immigrant community to learn about the new executive order and ask immigration attorneys Rick Hogan and Judith Munoz other legal questions.