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Statements from mayors and other local officials regarding the president’s executive order were defiant and affirmed their commitment to protect undocumented immigrants in their communities.
The same day that U.S. governors signaled their willingness to work with the new White House administration on a variety of policy priorities, mayors and other local leaders from across the nation did just the opposite regarding one of President Trump’s top campaign promises.
On Wednesday, the new president issued an executive order targeting “sanctuary cities,” localities whose leaders have directed their agencies, including law enforcement, not to cooperate with federal authorities on matters of immigration.
Trump’s executive order, which threatens to withhold federal funding for uncooperative jurisdictions, wasn’t unexpected and within hours, mayors and other local leaders around the nation had issued statements of defiance and reaffirmed their commitment to do everything in their power to protect undocumented immigrants living in their communities.
In Boston, Mayor Marty Walsh said during a press conference that his city “will not be intimidated by the threat to federal funding. We have each other’s backs. And we have the Constitution of the United States of America on our side.”
Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel said during a news conference that "[t]here is no stranger among us. We welcome people, whether you're from Poland or Pakistan, whether you're from Ireland or India or Israel and whether you're from Mexico or Moldova, where my grandfather came from, you are welcome in Chicago as you pursue the American Dream." Alderman John Arena said during a city council meeting: "You mess with one in Chicago, you mess with all of us."
District of Columbia Mayor Muriel Bowser said during a news conference that “[b]eing a sanctuary city means we are not an agent of the federal government . . . . It means that our police can focus on serving D.C. residents—protecting and serving them—no matter their immigration status.”
In Long Beach, California, Mayor Robert Garcia, a Peruvian immigrant who moved to the U.S. at age 5 and became an American citizen at age 21, released a series of tweets that talked about his family’s story, ending his thread with: “Let's stand up for all Americans—including hard working immigrants—because that's what makes my city, and America great.”
In Pittsburgh, Mayor Bill Peduto concluded his statement with a quotation from hometown hero Fred Rogers of “Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood,” the beloved PBS children’s television show: “The world needs a sense of worth, and it will achieve it only by its people feeling that they are worthwhile.”
Here’s a sampling of statements released Wednesday by city and county leaders around the U.S.
Portland, Oregon, Mayor Ted Wheeler:
For more than 150 years, Portland has been a destination for those wanting to apply their hard work to the purpose of creating a better life for themselves and their families. My own family made the trek on the Oregon Trail. We are a city built on immigration.
We are not going to run from that history. We will not be complicit in the deportation of our neighbors. Under my leadership as Mayor, the City of Portland will remain a welcoming, safe place for all people regardless of immigration status.
This approach is consistent with the Oregon state law and the 4th and 10th Amendments of the United States Constitution. We will not compromise our values as a city or as Americans and will resist these policies.
San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee:
The Bay Area is home to millions of people who have sought refuge and a chance at a better life. As mayors, we stand together in our responsibility to keep our cities safe and healthy and take care of all our residents and families, regardless of status. We will not give in to threats, or political grandstanding. Together, the Bay Area will stay true to our values of inclusiveness, compassion and equality, and united against any and all efforts to divide our residents, our cities, and our country.
Berkeley, California, Mayor Jesse Arreguín:
Our values of human rights, equity, and inclusion have come under attack by the Trump Administration. In just two days, Trump has pushed a divisive wall, stripped our citizens of civil liberties, and cut funding to cities that have the courage to stand up for all people—whether or not they are legal citizens. We will not be intimidated by threats to cut funding to cities that believe in the fundamental notion that no person is illegal. No amount of federal funding is worth betraying our values.
Oakland, California, Mayor Libby Schaaf:
The Bay Area stands united against this White House’s morally bankrupt policies that would divide families, turn our nation’s back on refugees in need, and potentially thwart the efforts of nearly one million productive young people who are on a legal path to citizenship. Oaklanders rely on $130 million in federal funding for everything from early education programs like Head Start to getting officers out of their cars and onto our streets at a time when community policing is so desperately needed. We will not allow this president to play politics with our safety and security.
San José Mayor Sam Liccardo:
Nothing about the President’s Executive Order will change how San Jose cops police our city. The San Jose Police Department’s longstanding policies relating to immigration enforcement are critical to keeping our community safe. Our police officers must focus their scarce time responding to and investigating violent, predatory and other high-priority crimes – not the enforcement of federal tax laws, federal securities laws, or federal immigration laws. There’s a broad consensus among major city police chiefs that having local officers meddle in federal immigration enforcement undermines public safety, and diminishes community trust. We need to ensure that all residents feel comfortable calling 911, reporting crimes, coming forward as witnesses, and testifying in court to help us keep criminals off the street.
Seattle Mayor Ed Murray:
Today is one of the worst days for immigrants in America since Japanese internment. Just days after hundreds of Seattleites volunteered to support more than 1,000 members of our immigrant community, President Trump sent a message back. He doesn’t respect our values and will exercise his power to threaten immigrants and our federal funding.
I want to assure Seattle residents that while they are right to be alarmed about President Trump’s divisive vision, they should not be concerned that this City will be bullied into stepping away from its commitments and values. The City of Seattle will continue to protect the rights guaranteed to the City and its people by the United States Constitution and will challenge any unconstitutional policies that threaten the security of our communities.
We are a nation of laws and we are committed to defending our residents, our values, and the Constitution in the court of law. We will not be intimidated.
King County, Washington, Council Chair Joe McDermott:
All residents of King County should know—this is a safe and welcoming county for everyone, including refugees and regardless of immigration status. That is a core value that we’ll fight to uphold and encourage everyone to come together as a community in that effort.
Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto:
The residents of Pittsburgh stand tonight with cities all across our nation. Pittsburgh was built by immigrants, who came to our city to find work in our steel mills and who forged a better life for their families. Like my grandparents, they came to America for opportunity, and they built America. We stand on their shoulders, and we owe it to them to preserve opportunities for current and future generations. Just as our past was built by immigrants, so too will be our future.
Let's be clear: the President's executive order will not make us safer. It will not advance the principles upon which our nation and our cities were founded. It will further divide us as a city and as a nation. Pittsburgh joins tonight with other cities across the country and we stand ready to fight this unprecedented and this unconstitutional act. We will resist, with all powers at our disposal, any attempt to commandeer our local law enforcement officers into a national deportation army.
Pittsburgh is, has been, and always will be a welcoming city and a diverse city. It's in our nature. We are a tough city, a blue collar city and a city with a big heart. We will continue to show everyone the respect and compassion they deserve—regardless of who they are, where they're from, who they love or how they found their way to our beloved city.
Minneapolis Mayor Betsy Hodges, City Council President Barbara Johnson and City Council Vice President Elizabeth Glidden:
Minneapolis is a city that welcomes everyone: immigrants, refugees, Native people, LGBT people, people with disabilities, and people of all races, genders, religions and ethnicities. Minneapolis is also a city that works hard to keep everyone safe in every community and every neighborhood.
In Minneapolis, one of the common-sense ways that we welcome all communities and work to keep them safe is by separating local police work from that of federal immigration authorities. This is how we encourage anyone who has been the victim of or witness to a crime to come forward, which keeps everyone in every neighborhood safer. We will continue to aggressively defend this common-sense practice to ensure that Minneapolis remains safe and welcoming for everyone.
The following joint statement was issued by U.S. Conference of Mayors CEO and Executive Director Tom Cochran and Major Cities Chiefs Association President and Montgomery County, Maryland Chief of Police J. Thomas Manger:
Mayors and police chiefs are committed to ensuring that criminals, regardless of their immigration status, are arrested and properly adjudicated by the criminal justice system. Our police departments regularly work in cooperation with federal authorities in a variety of enforcement activities.
Both Mayors and Chiefs of Police have taken a solemn oath to uphold the law and defend the Constitution. True to our oath, we have questions and concerns about the measures announced today. For example, the U.S. Supreme Court has held that denying federal funds to cities to coerce compliance with federal policies may be unconstitutional. Federal courts have likewise held that the ICE detainers referenced today do not provide sufficient legal justification for detention, arrest and incarceration by local officers. We call upon the Attorney General to meet with mayors and police chiefs for a constructive legal dialog.
Cities that aim to build trusting and supportive relations with immigrant communities should not be punished because this is essential to reducing crime and helping victims, both stated goals of the new Administration in Washington. We must be able to continue to protect the safety of all of our residents while ensuring that local law enforcement is focused on community policing.
The U.S. Conference of Mayors and the Major Cities Chiefs Association have, therefore, come together to register our strong reservations with provisions to withhold federal funds in the Executive Order, Enhancing Public Safety in the Interior of the United States, issued today.
That order does not provide a clear definition of what constitutes a sanctuary jurisdiction. Instead, it gives undefined discretion to the Secretary of Homeland Security to designate sanctuary jurisdictions and the Attorney General to take action against them. We call upon the Secretary of Homeland Security to document and promulgate a lawful definition before further actions are taken, so the cities across the Nation may determine how to proceed.
While the Executive Order initially defines a sanctuary jurisdiction as one that willfully does not comply with §1373 (a federal law which prohibits local and state governments from enacting laws or policies that limit communication regarding an individual’s immigration status with the Department of Homeland Security), it also describes a sanctuary jurisdiction as one that has in effect a statute, policy or practice that prevents or hinders enforcement of federal law – a definition open to broad interpretation. While the provisions of § 1373 have been enacted by Congress, the latter description has not.
Local police departments work hard to build and preserve trust with all of the communities they serve, including immigrant communities. Immigrants residing in our cities must be able to trust the police and all of city government.
We look forward to bringing mayors and police chiefs together with the Secretary of Homeland Security and the Attorney General to discuss these issues and develop an approach to immigration enforcement that does not interfere with strong police-community relations or place inappropriate burdens on local police officers, and upholds our nation’s immigration laws.
Michael Grass is Executive Editor of Government Executive's Route Fifty and is based in Seattle.
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