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‘A step further’: Lancaster becomes a “welcoming city”

LANCASTER, Pa. – Just under 60,000 people call Lancaster City home. Now, it is a designated “welcoming city”, certified by the non-profit orga...

LANCASTER, Pa. - Just under 60,000 people call Lancaster City home.

Now, it is a designated "welcoming city", certified by the non-profit organization, Welcoming America.

According to a press release, Lancaster is the sixth community to receive this national designation as it joins ranks with Salt Lake County, UT, Boise, ID, Lucas County, OH, Dayton, OH, and Louisville, KY. It is the first community in Pennsylvania to receive the certification.

"Lancaster has always been a great community, and I think this just goes that step further," said Chief Jarrad Berkihiser, Lancaster Bureau of Police.

"It really sets a precedent for our community, or really I should say it continues a precedent that we've set," explained Susannah Bartlett, Community Development Administrator for the City of Lancaster.

Bartlett helped get the ball rolling; she began the lengthy application for the city last summer.

The city went through an audit and made some changes; officials say more will come.

"We recently hired a language access coordinator," added Bartlett. "We are looking at our language access tools for our local law enforcement, fire enforcement."

Bartlett says this new distinction means more resources and programs for the people who live and work in Lancaster.

So, what does the new status mean for Lancaster Bureau police officers and their policies?

"It doesn't change our operations at all for the way we've been doing things for almost 26 years I have been here. We're not the immigration police," explained Chief Berkihiser.

Chief Jarrad Berkihiser says that work is meant for immigration and customs enforcement; that being said...

"Now, if we get notified that immigration authorities have a criminal warrant for somebody, we will hold them until they're taken to Lancaster County Prison," explained Berkihiser.

That's what the chief says makes a "welcoming city" different from a "sanctuary city" which doesn't have a clear definition.

Those cities, he says, try to dictate federal immigration laws.

"We don't necessarily need to go that far. I think it's going to help with people coming forward if they're victimized because that's ultimately what we want," explained Berkihiser.

York is actually following Lancaster's lead.

A spokesperson tells FOX43. while they've always considered York a welcoming place, it is trying to achieve the designation Lancaster plans to celebrate at its city council meeting Tueday night.

Lancaster City Council also plan to make a vote on a resolution that would recognize September 13th-22nd as Welcoming Week.

FOX43 did reach out to Congressman Lloyd Smucker; he supports legislation to end sanctuary cities.

So far, we have not heard back.