Since Election Day, immigrant communities in New York City and around the country have been living in a state of fear.
President Trump appears to be putting into action some of the worst elements of his campaign rhetoric--ramping up dragnet style immigration enforcement actions and issuing executive orders that demonize immigrants and make every one of them a target.
ICE raids now target people and places that would have been unimaginable just months earlier, including churches, courthouses, homeless shelters, domestic violence victims and Dreamers.
In response, New York and other cities have stepped up, reaffirming their commitments to protecting their immigrant communities.
If President Trump thought that his threats or Executive Order targeting sanctuary cities would cow us—he was wrong. In fact, his actions have had the opposite effect. During my State of the City address in January, I announced a sweeping package of legislation to defend immigrant New Yorkers and their families.
From blocking ICE from private areas on City property to restricting ICE’s access to schools and student records, the New York City Council is doubling down on its efforts to push back against the Trump administration. But we are not the only ones—there are many cities around the country that are finding innovative ways to protect immigrants and reinforcing existing policies that are already defending these communities.
Let’s be clear, this resistance can’t and won’t dissipate any time soon. Local lawmakers know that immigrants are a vital and core part of their communities and are eager to do what they can to protect their immigrant residents.
They know how senseless it is to break families apart in the name of a broken immigration system. They know that protecting immigrant residents will make their cities and towns safer and more prosperous.
In fact, a recent study shows that sanctuary cities have lower crime rates and better economies than cities without immigrant friendly policies. New York City has had immigrant protective policies in place for years. We are still the safest big city in America and our crime rate continues to drop.
Yet given the nature of the current national threat, we need to do more. There is power in numbers—so our next step must be to join forces. That’s why, this week Local Progress, a national network of legislators, and I are hosting the first-ever national convening of sanctuary jurisdictions from across the country.
The convening aims to establish a coalition of local elected officials dedicated to defending our immigrant residents and to share best practices, look at new strategies for litigation and organizing, and facilitate strategic partnerships to meet our shared goals.
We all have experience and wisdom to offer. By coming together around a shared vision, we can start building off the great work we’ve already done and develop legislative, budgetary, and organizing strategies to face the challenges ahead in a unified front. We will build our own wall of resistance.
On his inauguration day in 1993, President Bill Clinton said: “There is nothing wrong with America that can’t be cured by what is right with America.” It’s time for towns and cities to stand up for what’s right and fulfill the country’s promise. Our values of fair play, inclusion and the rule of law can overcome the current onslaught and, together, sanctuary cities will meet the challenge head on.
Melissa Mark-Viverito is the Speaker of the New York City Council and a member of Local Progress