City to ‘stand up’ to Trump

Amid de­por­ta­tion plans, Bal­ti­more to re­main ‘wel­com­ing’

Baltimore Sun - - FRONT PAGE - By Yvonne Wenger

Mayor Stephanie Rawl­ings-Blake reaf­firmed Thurs­day that Bal­ti­more wel­comes im­mi­grants and refugees, join­ing a grow­ing num­ber of may­ors across the coun­try who say they are try­ing to al­lay fear in those com­mu­ni­ties af­ter the elec­tion of Don­ald J. Trump as pres­i­dent.

Bal­ti­more’s mayor said city po­lice will not check the cit­i­zen­ship sta­tus of peo­ple with whom they in­ter­act. Her ad­min­is­tra­tion is pub­lish­ing a com­mu­nity guide that urges im­mi­grants in cap­i­tal let­ters: “Do not panic.” And city of­fi­cials are work­ing to steer im­mi­grants to­ward le­gal and other re­sources of­fered by non­prof­its.

Rawl­ings-Blake said Trump’s elec­tion cre­ates “a very scary en­vi­ron­ment for new Amer­i­cans.”

“The ef­forts that were touted dur­ing the elec­tion were not about us be­ing safe,” she said. “It was about di­vid­ing our coun­try, and that is what we’re here to stand up to.”

Trump said dur­ing the cam­paign that he would with­hold fed­eral funds from ci­ties that have le­nient poli­cies for han­dling il­le­gal im­mi­gra­tion. Such places are com-

monly called “sanctuary ci­ties.” Trump’s advisers are draft­ing plans to carry out work­place raids and in­crease pres­sure on lo­cal po­lice and jails to iden­tify un­doc­u­mented im­mi­grants.

The pres­i­dent-elect says he wants to de­port 2 mil­lion to 3 mil­lion peo­ple who en­tered the coun­try il­le­gally and who he says are crim­i­nals. He also has pro­posed build­ing a wall along the Mex­i­can bor­der and ban­ning Mus­lim im­mi­grants from en­ter­ing the coun­try.

Mayor-elect Catherine E. Pugh, a Demo­crat who will suc­ceed Rawl­ings-Blake in De­cem­ber, in­di­cated she would con­tinue the out­go­ing mayor’s poli­cies, in­clud­ing a 2012 ex­ec­u­tive or­der that pro­hibits city po­lice from ask­ing about a per­son’s cit­i­zen­ship sta­tus.

Pugh said un­der her ad­min­is­tra­tion, “We will con­tinue to be a wel­com­ing city.”

Rawl­ings-Blake re­cently pro­moted a re­port that found im­mi­grants in Mary­land — who make up about15 per­cent of the state pop­u­la­tion — con­trib­ute $9 bil­lion in taxes and em­ploy more than 125,000 peo­ple at their busi­nesses. The re­port was pro­duced by the Part­ner­ship for a New American Econ­omy, a group of may­ors and busi­ness lead­ers who sup­port im­mi­gra­tion re­form. The con­clu­sions are based on U.S. Cen­sus data.

In the days since Trump’s elec­tion, may­ors across the coun­try have avowed po­si­tions sim­i­lar to Rawl­ings-Blake’s. Among them are Demo­cratic may­ors in Chicago, Los An­ge­les, New York, Philadel­phia and Wash­ing­ton.

Mark J. Sh­mueli, a Takoma Park im­mi­gra­tion lawyer and mem­ber of a nowde­funct gu­ber­na­to­rial com­mis­sion that stud­ied the im­pact of im­mi­grants in Mary­land, said the band­ing to­gether of large-city may­ors makes it less likely Trump will strip fed­eral fund­ing.

“The sol­i­dar­ity of the dif­fer­ent ci­ties, in my view, would make it ex­tremely dif­fi­cult, if not im­pos­si­ble,” Sh­mueli said. “Cut­ting off fund­ing for many of the ma­jor ci­ties in the U.S. — New York, Chicago, LA — may not be fea­si­ble.”

Ac­cord­ing to the city bud­get, Bal­ti­more is ex­pected to re­ceive more than $216 mil­lion in fed­eral grants for op­er­at­ing and cap­i­tal ex­penses in the cur­rent fis­cal year.

Sh­mueli said the po­si­tions ad­vo­cated by Trump and like-minded mem­bers of Congress to pe­nal­ize ci­ties that don’t act ag­gres­sively against il­le­gal im­mi­gra­tion leave “a lot of un­knowns.”

“The rhetoric is out there, but this would be dif­fi­cult to do,” he said.

Cassie Wil­liams, press sec­re­tary for the Fed­er­a­tion for American Im­mi­gra­tion Re­form, which ad­vo­cates for re­duc­ing over­all im­mi­gra­tion, said Trumphas given the ci­ties fair warn­ing. She said may­ors of ci­ties like Bal­ti­more are putting salaries of law-abid­ing govern­ment em­ploy­ees on the line.

“It is not only los­ing out on this money, it is turn­ing these ci­ties into the Wild Wild West,” Wil­liams said. “By ig­nor­ing the fed­eral law, they are en­cour­ag­ing and they are re­ward­ing law-breaking.”

Rawl­ings-Blake re­jected the no­tion that her po­si­tion was un­law­ful.

“When you talk about fol­low­ing law, we are liv­ing at a time when the [im­mi­gra­tion] laws are bro­ken and ev­ery­one — Democrats, Repub­li­cans, In­de­pen­dents — rec­og­nize that,” she said.

The mayor said she con­sid­ers Bal­ti­more a “wel­com­ing city,” not a “sanctuary city.”

Al­though the term “sanctuary city” has no for­mal def­i­ni­tion, it gen­er­ally refers to a city that pro­vides shel­ter to im­mi­grants and co­op­er­ates to vary­ing de­grees with fed­eral law en­force­ment. Rawl­ings-Blake con­sid­ers a “wel­com­ing city” one that pro­motes mu­tual re­spect and co­op­er­a­tion and of­fers in­clu­sive and tol­er­ant com­mu­ni­ties.

Rawl­ings-Blake called on other elected of­fi­cials across Mary­land to speak up about wel­com­ing im­mi­grants. She also called on those of­fi­cials to hold Repub­li­can Gov. Larry Ho­gan and his ad­min­is­tra­tion “ac­count­able for how they treat ev­ery­one who is here liv­ing in Mary­land.”

A spokesman for Ho­gan did not re­spond to a re­quest for com­ment.

About two dozen peo­ple crowded into the mayor’s cer­e­mo­nial room for a news con­fer­ence Thurs­day, in­clud­ing vol­un­teers and of­fi­cials from im­mi­grant rights ad­vo­cate CASA and the Coun­cil on Amer­i­canIs­lamic Re­la­tions.

Rawl­ings-Blake said she wanted to high­light the “rich­ness of cul­tures here, stand­ing to­gether in sol­i­dar­ity against big­otry, against hate, against this no­tion that it is ‘us against them.’ ”

Ad­vo­cates said they have re­ceived re­ports that show an uptick in slurs and hate-re­lated ac­tions against im­mi­grants in Mary­land dur­ing the past week. Ex­am­ples in­clude school stu­dents be­ing bul­lied or beaten up, said El­iz­a­beth Alex, re­gional di­rec­tor of CASA Bal­ti­more.

The guide pro­duced by the mayor’s of­fice in­cludes a de­scrip­tion of due process, in­for­ma­tion on how to re­port a hate crime and con­tact in­for­ma­tion for or­ga­ni­za­tions that pro­vide sup­port.

“We’re hear­ing re­ports of young chil­dren com­ing home in tears from other stu­dents telling them they can’t come to school any­more — ‘Go back to Mex­ico,’ ” Alex said. “High school stu­dents are be­ing beaten up be­cause of how they look.

“This type of na­tional rhetoric that’s been fly­ing around the TV chan­nels is not what we’re about here in Bal­ti­more City.”

Zainab Chaudry, out­reach man­ager for the Coun­cil on American-Is­lamic Re­la­tions in Mary­land, said her group has been “in­un­dated with voice­mails, emails, peo­ple who want to stand in sol­i­dar­ity” af­ter the elec­tion. The mayor’s reaf­fir­ma­tion Thurs­day helps, she said.

“In this po­lit­i­cal cli­mate, where there is so much un­cer­tainty and anx­i­ety, these words are re­as­sur­ing,” Chaudry said. “We’re hope­ful it will help calm some of the fears.”


Bal­ti­more Mayor Stephanie Rawl­ings-Blake af­firmed that city po­lice of­fi­cers would not check the cit­i­zen­ship sta­tus of the peo­ple they en­counter.

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