“Give me Sanctuary,” was the battle cry at a community dialogue regarding Denver’s stance on becoming a “sanctuary city,” held at North High School last Thursday night. Over 250 people trekked through icy streets and cold weather to attend this meeting; perhaps a sign of the times filled with the stench of imigraphobia, immigrant-bashing floating in the air, and outright vengeance against undocumented workers and their families who are suffering from intense anxiety and emotional distress. In several public statements on television Denver Mayor Michael Hancock vowed to keep all citizens and noncitizens safe. American Civil Liberties (ACLU) President Denise Maes informed the community residents that there is not a legal definition of sanctuary; ostensibly negating the President’s idle threats. However, President Trump’s executive order doesn’t preclude him from further abusing using his executive authority and ordering his semanticists to create a definition for sanctuary and implement it with vigorous contempt towards immigrants.
[pullquote]In several public statements on television Denver Mayor Michael Hancock vowed to keep all citizens and noncitizens safe.[/pullquote]
What has been common practice throughout the country since immigration raids have taken place since immigration has become a hot and contentious topic is for Immigration Custom Enforcement (ICE) officials to exchange roles with police officers, blurring the lines of responsibility. The Mayor stated that he will not allow Denver Police officers to implement such practices in tandem with Immigration Custom Enforcement personnel as this federal executive mandate is implemented. A representative from the Sheriff’s Department also reiterated this agreement.
This is also complicated by the legal hearings on banning Muslims from coming into American society. Trump’s ban on Muslim’s framed as a moral commitment for “providing safety to all Americans,” from potential terrorism from abroad seems to cross the border and is seen by many of the community’s participants as internal terrorism by the government. It is moral repugnancy at its best. Currently this mandate is held up in the courts as they wrangle over its constitutionality, which will be decided this week.
When an irate audience participant asked why the mayor was absent from the meeting, the audience was informed that Mayor Hancock had traveled to Washington to meet with other mayors who are coalescing to investigate what can be done legally to avert further abuse of his power. The wheels of justice often times move very slow. In this case, it is conceivable that ICE troops may join those hiding in the shadows with warrants to arrest them. There may also be national raids in major cities where undocumented workers work and live.
Several Denver political and community leaders including Alan Salazar, Chief of Staff for Denver’s Mayor, the Mayor’s attorney, Representative Joe Salazar, and Council members Paul López, Rafael Espinoza and Debra Ortega, Representative Leslie Herod, Julie Gonzales, statewide co-chair for the Colorado Latino Forum, attorney Hans Meyer and yours truly were selected as some of the participants to address to address various aspects of our current immigration crisis. Some panelist’ commentaries were directly connected to Sanctuary and others indirectly connected to what can be done to protect the community’s residents. Panelists characterized the political environment as a direct attack on Chicano and Mexicano communities across the country by an unscrupulous President that has threatened to punish any American city that claims sanctuary for undocumented workers. His punishment includes withholding or refusing to provide federal funding to those cities. Residents and activists developed a community definition of sanctuary which at minimum should include the following provisions: 1) No ICE holds, which precludes the Denver Sheriff and Police Departments from following any mandates by ICE officials; 2) No ICE notifications, which includes any release of information to ICE officials; 3) No Proactive Communication, which includes collecting information related to a an individual’s place of origin and/or citizenship or immigration status; 4) Honor Sensitive Areas, which includes the denial of ICE officials into Denver Schools, courthouses, probation offices, and other sensitive locations; and 5) Create an Immigrant Legal Defense Fund; solely for use by immigrants facing deportation. Supporters were encouraged to offer time and energy to get involved in this issue, opening your home to those affected by this atrocious policy and most of all opening your heart to those being lambasted.
Community testimonies were shared at the podium by distraught immigrants, stories of current deportation proceedings, and an intense racial profiling attitude that is reminiscent of Operation Wetback implemented in 1954, which incidentally gave “gave rise to arrests and deportations by the U.S. Border Patrol civil rights violations, which resulted in several hundred United States citizens being illegally deported without being given a chance to prove their citizenship.” Other speakers talked about the resilience of the community that has struggled for social justice for over 150 years in American society.
Representative Joe Salazar, a constitutional attorney, is currently working on Colorado legislation wherein the state should use its power, via the 10th amendment, which “basically says that any power that is not given to the federal government is given to the people of the states,” to write its own legislation that will protect immigrants from further abuse. He is dead set on tackling the issue even if it means political warfare by rightwing politicians that are developing alternative regressive policies aimed at oppressing immigrants.
The collective trauma present in the auditorium was overshadowed by a community that has come together to show its solidarity as it shouts out in unison, “Give me Sanctuary.”
Ramón Del Castillo is an Independent Journalist. © 2/7/17 Ramón Del Castillo.