As Americans, we pride ourselves on being a nation of immigrants. It is woven into the fabric of our nation. After all, most Americans are descendants of immigrants themselves and have come to the “land of the free and home of the brave” either by force or by choice. As a citizen of New Haven, one of my greatest sources of pride is knowing that our city is so representative of America’s incredible diversity.
At our core, New Haven is a community that embraces people of every race, every religion, and every country of origin. For almost a decade, we have protected these values by ensuring that undocumented immigrants are given a sanctuary in our city.
However, in the wake of the presidential election, our identity as a center for tolerance is under attack. President-elect Donald Trump has already promised to cancel all federal funding for ‘sanctuary cities’ like New Haven, New York City, or Los Angeles where law enforcement protects undocumented immigrants from deportation by choosing not to share their immigration status with Immigration and Customs Enforcement. They uphold American values by providing opportunities to individuals who are seeking economic mobility but have struggled because of a broken immigration system.
Local, state, and federal government must stand up against this potentially problematic issue. City governments can achieve this goal by limiting the interaction between the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency (ICE) and local law enforcement. They can additionally monitor federal agents in the area and issue government ID cards.
In 2007, the City of New Haven issued ID cards that helped members of the community take advantage of crucial government services, access financial institutions, and raise public safety concerns for the city. Opponents of sanctuary cities assert that this measure is unfair – that, because these people are undocumented, they do not deserve access to American institutions. However, undocumented immigrants are not only central to the culture and diversity of America, but they are also incredible contributors to the United States economy. In fact, undocumented immigrants pay about $12 billion in taxes each year.
That’s why we must fight back against this threat. Federally elected officials, in Connecticut and around the United States, must do everything in their power to prevent legislation against sanctuary cities from succeeding. Simultaneously, we must act on the municipal level. As an Alder in New Haven, I know that it is vital for city governments around the nation to defend the lives of undocumented immigrants through meaningful policy.
Public officials must therefore reaffirm their commitment to defending threatened undocumented communities. Sanctuary cities like New Haven prevent thousands of people from being removed from their homes and deported each year and it is so important that these protections for undocumented immigrants are continued. To ensure that the voices of the people are clearly heard on this issue, I’ve started a petition on Change.org calling on my colleagues and other elected officials to take action – I encourage you to sign it.
Now, more than ever, we must stand in solidarity and act upon our collective strength. As progressives and as Americans, we have to defend our undocumented friends, family, and neighbors. The safety and humanity of millions of people across the country depend on our actions now. This is an issue about who we are as a nation. We cannot and we will not lose.
Darryl Brackeen Jr. is an Alderman representing New Haven’s 26th ward and is director of the Connecticut Young Elected Officials Network.