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Salt Lake County will resist enforcing President Donald Trump's new immigration agenda, Mayor Ben McAdams pledged Friday.
"There has been fear and uncertainty among our refugee population the last few days," McAdams said, referring to the new president's push to beef up deportation efforts. "We want to reassure them that we love them and their presence [in Salt Lake County] is an important part of our identity. Their presence makes us better, stronger and richer."
After a special screening of the Sundance documentary "Cries From Syria" at Clark Planetarium in Salt Lake City, McAdams read from a written proclamation stating Salt Lake County believes "local law enforcement resources should focus on criminal activities, not civil violations of federal code."
McAdams said the county will "oppose policies that unnecessarily separate families" and will "welcome people fleeing oppression and life-threatening conditions."
The message comes a day after Salt Lake City Mayor Jackie Biskupski and Police Chief Mike Brown said the capital city will not enforce Trump's immigration agenda, which, in addition to deportation, includes building a wall between the United States and Mexico, curbing federal funding for cities that act as safe havens for undocumented immigrants, and suspending legal immigration and travel from countries that are terrorism hot spots, all of them Muslim-majority nations.
Utah has long been a leader in providing refugee services, McAdams said. There are 60,000 refugees living in the state, with another 1,200 expected in 2017, many of whom will come from the war-torn country depicted in "Cries From Syria."
In the documentary, Oscar-nominated director Evgeny Afineevsky offers an unsanitized version of the brutality that has occurred during the six-year civil war. The film, which premiered last week at the Sundance Film Festival, includes shocking footage of starvation, chemical warfare and targeted airstrikes on hospitals and schools.
On Friday, there was a special screening of the film for more than 100 public, private and nonprofit leaders from around the country attending the Salt Lake County Innovation Summit. HBO has acquired U.S. television rights to the documentary and will air it March 13.
Later this year, the film's Utah-based executive producers, Geralyn Dreyfous and Naja Pham Lockwood, hope to show the film in communities around the country, much like they did with "The Hunting Ground," a documentary about rape on college campuses that premiered at the 2015 Sundance Film Festival. Dreyfous hopes to get some $150,000 in donations to help pay for the cross-country screenings.
"How do you call them terrorists, after you see this film?" she asked those in attendance.
Afineevsky said if more people don't understand the plight of the Syrian people and help relocate them to safe havens, then those left inside that country will die in prisons, be killed fighting or be forced to turn against the United States and fight for the Islamic State group, he said. "We can change the history."