USA TODAY US Edition
Immigration showdown builds at local level
Cities across the USA defy enforcement push
DENVER – Angry activists and local officials are fighting President Trump’s immigration enforcement efforts by warning of ICE raids, staking out courthouses to spy on immigration agents and offering indefinite sanctuary inside churches.
The increasingly visible and vocal opposition comes as courts have snubbed the president’s proposals.
The mayor of Oakland alerted her entire city last week to impending raids by Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents.
“We refuse to stand by and let families get ripped apart because of a cruel and backward-thinking federal administration,” San Francisco Supervisor Hillary Ronen said Thursday after the city announced government funding for immigration lawyers.
“The more they attack our San Francisco communities, the harder we will fight to protect them. And we will win. By expanding access to legal representation to all immigrants, we are keeping immigrant families safe, and we are standing against bigotry and xenophobia. We will not be bullied into submission.”
The Supreme Court granted a temporary victory last month for young adults protected by the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program established by President Obama in 2012. That case will be considered by a lower court. Late Monday, a federal judge ruled that Trump has the right to end DACA, but two injunctions temporarily prohibit action.
Trump’s presidential campaign rallies were often built around his call to “Build the Wall” on the Mexican bor-
der, and he has tried to clamp down on immigration from Muslim countries and crack down on “sanctuary cities” that harbor undocumented immigrants. The Justice Department asked two dozen self-described sanctuary cities to explain their policies.
Immigration expert Theresa Brown of the Bipartisan Policy Center, who served in the Department of Homeland Security under Presidents George W. Bush and Obama, said that although most Americans believe the country’s immigration system needs to be changed, Congress has been unwilling to act for two decades. Presidents, she said, stepped into that breach to interpret the rules.
“The situation we find ourselves in is new: We have growing and extreme conflicts between the federal government and some local communities. And it’s all ending up in the courts,” Brown said. “Because Congress has not acted on immigration, executives from both parties have seized the initiative ... and that’s what’s causing all this uncertainty. That’s what’s problematic for a lot of people, because it can be changed on a whim.”
Many jails refuse to honor “detainers,” requests for officials to hold suspects for up to 48 hours while ICE agents investigate their immigration status. ICE leaders said officials who refuse to help them hurt their ability to arrest and deport dangerous undocumented immigrants. After immigration raids in California last week, ICE Deputy Director Thomas Homan said, “Criminal aliens and public safety threats remain at large in the community, and I have to believe that some of them were able to elude us thanks to the (Oakland) mayor’s irresponsible decision.”
Among the activism around the country:
❚ In North Brunswick, N.J., the mayor helped organize volunteer monitors to stake out the courthouse and livestream any ICE detentions. “North Brunswick is the first municipality that is welcoming us to provide some level of surveillance outside of the courthouse to make sure that ICE doesn’t undermine the sanctity of what a courthouse is,” said the Rev. Seth Kaper-Dale, who leads the advocacy group Deportation and Immigration Response Equipo.
❚ In Denver, officials erected a student-designed billboard calling for “Education Not Deportation” and put up a sign on City Hall welcoming immigrants. The billboard was put up as part of the city’s “Healing As One” initiative, which aims to portray a unified city. Other billboards in the series encouraged “hope” and being “better together.”
❚ In San Francisco, about 200 protesters surrounded the ICE office last week to protest the detention of about 150 people across northern and central California. City officials hired additional public defenders to aid detained immigrants and provided $1.5 million to immigrant rights groups for education and legal aid campaigns. A California law that went into effect Jan. 1 restricts state and local law enforcement from assisting federal immigration agents.
❚ In Phoenix, the Shadow Rock United Church of Christ offered sanctuary to Jesus Berrones, 30, an undocumented immigrant from Mexico facing deportation. Berrones took sanctuary in part because one of his five kids (who are American citizens) has leukemia. He had been allowed to remain in the country under Obama. Three days after he took sanctuary, ICE agents granted Berrones a one-year stay from deportation so he could pursue a legal remedy. Shadow Rock’s pastor, the Rev. Ken Heintzelman, said his church views the Trump administration’s crackdown on undocumented immigrants as a threat to families.
❚ In Montclair, N.J., the BnaiKeshet Reconstructionist Synagogue is renovating unused space into living quarters for anyone seeking sanctuary from ICE agents. At least 1,000 houses of worship offer sanctuary nationally, the coordinating Church World Service said, a 150% increase since Trump’s election.
❚ In Memphis, activists are tying efforts to defend immigrants to the upcoming 50-year anniversary of the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr., in part by encouraging the children of immigrants to stay in school. “God reminded us in the Old Testament we have to be careful how we treat foreigners, because we were once foreigners and slaves ourselves,” said the Rev. Stacy Spencer.
❚ In Oakland, Mayor Libby Schaaf said she made the right decision in announcing potential ICE raids, despite the firestorm of criticism from federal officials. “Roughly one-third of Oakland’s residents are immigrants, and they make our city a more inclusive, dynamic and vibrant city,” she told USA TODAY. “If there is political fallout, I can take it.”