By Jodee Frias and Julian Viviescas
What does one do when their child comes home crying because their teacher told them President Trump wants to deport them? Answering calls from undocumented immigrants was how Iván Espinoza-Madrigal, Executive Director of the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights, spent his days following the President’s executive order to cut federal funds for sanctuary cities.
A sanctuary city is “a city limiting its cooperation with the national government to enforce immigration law,” and cities with similar titles are popping up in Massachusetts, such as freedom cities and welcoming cities. These cities all have a common goal: to protect undocumented immigrants.
“We’re going to strip federal grant money from the sanctuary states and cities that harbor illegal immigrants,” said White House Press Secretary, Sean Spicer, in January.
“It struck a tremendous amount of fear in immigrant families and immigrant communities,” said Espinoza-Madrigal. “I think it makes a tremendous amount of sense for cities to adopt immigrant friendly policies…not all of them have to look the same.”
Espinoza-Madrigal stressed that Trump’s order violated Constitutional principles, such as the Separation of Powers Doctrine. Many cities question if the humanity of obtaining sanctuary city status outweighs the possibility of losing federal funding.
The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) works on behalf of immigrants to ensure their rights are being protected. Laura Rótolo– Staff Counsel/Community Advocate for the ACLU– came from Argentina, and it pains her to see the communities like the one she grew up in being targeted.
“Sanctuary cities and welcoming cities are a really good way to protect people at the ground level and to increase public safety for everyone,” stated Rótolo, when reflecting on why the ACLU fights for the spread of these areas.
This is a growing issue, and many cities in Massachusetts are responding differently.
LOWELL: The City of Lowell does not recognize itself as a sanctuary city due to President Trump’s threats, although they have immigrant friendly policies.
“Why would we risk hurting the very people we’re trying to protect?”, said Officer David Peaslee from the Lowell Police Department, when asked why Lowell has not obtained the status. He believes the loss of funding will hurt immigrants more, since Lowell would be unable to afford the resources they need.
CAMBRIDGE: The City of Cambridge proudly labels itself as a sanctuary city, which is paramount to Mayor E. Denise Simmons, who prides her city on its diversity and inclusivity.
“We have historically stood out as a safe nation for those fleeing harm, persecution, and intolerance, and it is important that we continue to stand by those ideals,” Simmons said via email.
BOSTON: Boston identifies itself as a sanctuary city, whereas the Boston Trust Act, established in 2014, ensures that the Boston Police Department will not support Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) in detainment unless there has been a criminal warrant issued.
Our political climate has opened up questions as to what a sanctuary city is and how cities can establish their own immigration policies. Even though the administration’s order has given sanctuary cities a stigma of fear, new doors open every day as to how cities can label themselves and protect their citizens.