Cities and States rise up against Washington, D.C.

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The wallets of the residents of South Bend, Ind., have recently become thicker. Don’t get too excited! It’s not money, even though it might also be compared in value for a part of the community. Locals there can now have two different types of identification, the state driver’s license, which is the more common one in the United States, or the city card. The regional system was created about a year ago in part to help nondrivers and immigrants, including undocumented ones, to feel safe enough to use the city’s service without being afraid of deportation.

“We want to make sure that they can still do things like pick up a prescription or show who they are for a police officer,” says mayor Pete Buttigrieg. “We created a municipal I.D. that helps fill in a gap right now.”

The gap is the escalated fear in foreign communities as a result of the stricter immigration policies of the Trump Administration. These policies range from the travel ban to the renewed ICE’s (Immigration and Customs Enforcement) guidance to enforce laws more aggressively, including to find, arrest and deport anyone without a legal residence status or visa.

This is one example of how cities and states are taking action to overcome some of Trump’s most controversial policies. Another example is the coalition was formed after the president’s decision to withdraw from the Paris Agreement. More than 200 local American public administration offices, along with thousands of businesses, decided to sustain their goals to reduce emissions despite the president’s call. They are going to represent the United States unofficially in the next United Nation’s climate conference with an independent envoy.

“It is a totally different way for other countries to think about the U.S.,” says Paul Bodnar, the director of the Rocky Mountain Institute, and one of the former Obama Administration members responsible for the Paris Agreement negotiations. “We have to re-educate the rest of the world about how our economy functions.”

The offensive spreads to a broader range of issues. At least 15 states sued the federal government’s decision to end DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals). The city of Chicago sought a legal path to prevent the federal administration from enforcing policies that would withhold funding from sanctuary cities that do not comply with the new immigration policies. Actions include a lawsuit from the state of California against Trump’s plan to build the border wall between the United States and Mexico, and threats from the state of New York to sue the administration if it ends Obamacare.

The city of Denver has joined at least three of the lawsuits, most of them related to endangered federal grants due to local immigration policies and approaches. The Denver mayor has sent a letter to local ICE’s authorities to request them to stay out of local courts, to stop using the hearings to go after undocumented immigrants under the pretense of solving other alleged crimes.

The major also asked them to change their uniforms in order to distinguish the ICE authorities from local police officers.

Both requests were rejected. The local sentencing code was reviewed. Authorities discovered the previous made no distinctions between minor crimes and the more serious one on the municipal level. Thus, under federal immigrations laws, a legal foreigner could become deportable after being convicted of small offenses, such as having alcohol on a public street or not complying with curfews in the city parks.

“Our challenge in the light of the new federal immigration enforcement policies was to reassure people that we can protect their rights and their safety in the other judicial process that they are involved and hopefully restore some faith,” says the Attorney General of Denver, Kristin Bronson.

The relationship between Denver’s officials and immigrant communities has become strained since the announcement of the federal executive orders that created harsher penalties for immigrants. According to the attorney general, at least nine domestic violence victims contacted the local authorities to communicate they were unwilling to continue with their cases because they feared that identifying themselves as part of the process could lead to their deportation.

“It was not common for that to happen,” says Bronson. “We attribute the backing out now directly to the rhetoric that is coming on the national level and the change in the police that puts everyone in the immigrant community in risk now.”

 

Read the full story in Portuguese here