Cities Take Steps to Protect Immigrant Communities

Rachel Schmidt
Oct 30, 2015

Certain politicians are intent on categorizing all undocumented immigrants as “rapists and criminals” that need to be kept out of the United States with giant walls on the southern border.  This rhetoric creates fear, perpetuates racism, and is dehumanizing. The term immigrant has historically been used in our legal system to categorize people who migrated here from other countries and that has often been translated into “less-than” in our society. Thankfully, some cities in the U.S. are embracing policies that ­­­do not tip-off Immigration Customs Enforcement (ICE) about those who are undocumented. These municipalities have colloquially come to be known as “sanctuary cities” and are important to uplift, for they promote safer communities where trust exists between local law enforcement and community members.

There are many benefits sanctuary cities provide to all residents of the U.S. The obvious positive for people who are immigrants is that local authorities are not actively reporting their immigration status, which could lead to deportation back to their country of origin, if undocumented. This results in people, often undocumented parents and U.S. citizen children, being separated from family, friends, and communities. Individuals and families categorized as immigrants or refugees are often forced to return to dreadful violence or extreme poverty that prompted their migration to the U.S. in the first place. This practice is a violation of human rights and ongoing abuses are deeply feared by immigrant justice advocates across the U.S. as it leads to unsafety in our communities. People who are immigrants are less likely to trust local authorities and report crime or domestic violence if the threat of a deportation looms over them. This is not good for anyone in society.

Our hearts must be broken open to the anguish individuals and families are experiencing because of current immigration laws. This video from the 2015 Nuns on the Bus campaign shows the struggle families go through when members are deported. If this family was under sanctuary city protection, their story would not have been filled with such deep pain.

Last week, the Senate voted down S. 2146 that would punish the local governments that choose to exercise their discretion by not asking about an individual’s immigration status. We are grateful for this win. However, this is not the end of threats to sanctuary cities. The bill was labeled the “Donald Trump Act” after Trump’s proclivity to blaming immigrants for the problems of the nation. As long as anti-immigrant sentiment similar to Trump’s exists in Congress, there will be attempts to punish cities for acknowledging the humanity of people who are undocumented.

Individuals and families who are immigrants are already dealing with blatant racism and discrimination, and we must not encourage further discrimination by attacking sanctuary cities. As Pope Francis said while he was in the United States in September “”We, the people of this continent, are not fearful of foreigners, because most of us once were foreigners.” Eleven million people would not be undocumented in this country if we would pass comprehensive immigration reform that outlines a pathway to citizenship. We could also be doing more to invest in finding solutions to end the violence and poverty rampant in the countries of origin. Most of the money currently spent trying to resolve this humanitarian issue is being allocated toward the militarization of our borders where refugees are being turned away and back to the danger they are fleeing from. We need to support these individuals and families who are only trying to survive.

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