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Monday, July 16, 2018

Columns

Mayors of sanctuary cities stand up for immigrants


Sonny Singh/The Cougar

Earlier this week, in response to the Trump Administration’s threat to withhold government funding, a number of mayors of major cities boycotted the U.S. Conference of Mayors meeting at the White House.

Their absence is evidence of widespread support for the country’s undocumented immigrants and combats the negative rhetoric that Trump perpetuates. The message sent by this blockage shows a collective effort to go against the president and stand in solidarity with sanctuary cities. 

Houston, due to its proximity to the border, is often assumed to be a sanctuary city. This is not the case, but Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner has openly defended the status of these safe havens. He has assured the city’s residents that not being a citizen does not mean they will not get help, such as during Hurricane Harvey. He has stood against laws that transform local police into immigration enforcers.

The president’s threat was issued to put pressure on sanctuary cities to release information about the citizenship or immigration status of their inhabitants.

Trump lambasted the mayors who refused to attend, describing the immigrant community as one of criminality and accused city officials of prioritizing “criminal illegal immigrants” over “law-abiding Americans.”

Mayors Bill de Blasio of New York, Eric Garcetti of Los Angeles and Rahm Emanuel of Chicago all refused to attend the meeting; some went even further, directly calling Trump out on his racist remarks which demonized the immigrant community.

It is promising to see that city officials aim to protect the inhabitants of our cities, recognizing that they are parents, children and students who are seeking better opportunities than those available in their home countries. They are human beings and are no less worthy of rights to life than anyone else.

Mayors caring for their citizens and prioritizing their needs like this is part of what makes this country great, and their actions uphold the true core values of this country.

Our own University stands proudly as one of the most diverse schools in the nation. In December 2016 and May and August 2017, Hispanic and African-American students alone made up 34.7 percent of graduates.

U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions opposed the mayors’ move and placed blame on sanctuary cities for the existence of “gang violence and crime.” 

However, those who oppose the current administration argue that these cities actually improve public safety by promoting a relationship of trust between law enforcement and immigrant communities. They also minimize waste of resources, preserving them for more urgent needs than deporting respectable and innocent community members and separating families.

I grew up in the Sharpstown community of Houston, a predominantly immigrant neighborhood. My neighbors and childhood friends are all immigrants or children of immigrants, and I could not fathom what would happen if they were to be targeted by ICE raids.

Our city is one of the most diverse in the nation, and our officials must be considerate, sensitive and careful to foster the unique dynamic here.

Previously, when the Trump Administration increased ICE crackdowns and deportations, Turner issued a statement asserting that Houston would not release information of the status of inhabitants. However, with increased threats from government officials, it is unclear if he will remain so steadfast.

It is imperative that we continue to work to improve the conditions for immigrants in the U.S. so they may continue to pursue their goals and feel safe while doing so. It is the only way to deconstruct the environment of fear and resentment toward the law that many feel when police transform into immigration enforcers. We must promote an atmosphere of cooperation and dignified interaction.

Opinion columnist Sarah Tawashy is a human nutrition and foods sophomore. She can be reached at [email protected]

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