Immigrant-friendly policy keeps communities safer

BY Marian Mendez-Cera / Community Organizer, EL CENTRO de Igualdad y Derechos and Adriel Orozco / EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, N.M. IMMIGRANT LAW CENTER

Wednesday, February 26th, 2020 at 12:02am

We are proud of Albuquerque’s legacy of passing policies that are conducive to immigrant integration and reflect our values of fairness, equity and family. In 2000, we first formally recognized the cultural, economic and civic contributions that immigrants make to our city with the passage of our first “Immigrant-friendly” resolution. This resolution affirmed our commitment to upholding the civil rights of all families, regardless of where we come from, and importantly, that we would use no municipal resources to separate families. As Burqueños, we recognize that immigrants are our classmates, family members, taxpayers, co-workers, business owners and neighbors.

Since then, we have reaffirmed and expanded this commitment. We recognize that immigrant-friendly policies, often referred to as “sanctuary” policies, preserve limited local resources for public safety priorities rather than volunteering to aid in the deportation of Albuquerque families. In addition, localities have no independent legal authority to enforce immigration laws and no legal obligation to provide assistance to ICE.

Despite the current administration’s continual fearmongering about immigrants and sanctuary cities, these policies continue to grow throughout the country. According to the Immigrant Legal Resource Center, since Trump was elected at least 475 communities have increased their sanctuary-policy protection and more than 125 million Americans live in a jurisdiction that has a policy limiting involvement in immigration enforcement.

These jurisdictions understand that sanctuary policies are conducive to public safety and family well-being. The Center for American Progress confirms that sanctuary jurisdictions have lower crime rates. It makes sense: We want all Albuquerque residents to come forward, report crime, serve as witnesses in domestic violence or sexual assault cases, and participate in community policing efforts, without fear of family separation. That makes all Albuquerque families safer.

In his Feb. 10 guest column, U.S. District Attorney and Trump-appointee John C. Anderson encourages Albuquerque to “accept” federal immigration enforcement in order to receive federal funding. Let us be clear: It is not our policies which are putting federal monies at risk, it is the Trump administration that is trying to coerce and threaten sanctuary jurisdictions into doing the federal government’s dirty work by imposing unlawful conditions to federal public safety grants. However, Trump is losing this battle. Threats to deny federal funding for communities that adopt sanctuary policies have been defeated in the courts, ruling that adding immigration enforcement conditions to federal grants was illegal. So our response as a city cannot be to give in to the Trump administration’s bullying tactics. We can and should continue to fight back without putting our public safety money at risk.

In his column, Anderson states one of the conditions in question to receive certain federal grants is 8 U.S.C. § 1373, which prohibits state and local governments from enacting laws or policies that limit communication with ICE about an individual’s “information regarding the immigration or citizenship status.” Not only does Albuquerque’s immigrant-friendly policy comply, but the city would have every reason to push back at having to certify compliance with a law that is likely unconstitutional. In fact, at least two federal district courts found 8 U.S.C. § 1373 to be unconstitutional under the Tenth Amendment, and another characterized it as “highly suspect.” This is absolutely a states-rights issue.

So ‘Burque, let’s come together as a community to find positive solutions that promote public safety. Let us not allow the Trump administration to criminalize our neighbors and make all of us less safe in the process.