High Stakes in Trump’s War on Sanctuary Jurisdictions

February 13, 2017 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us


Editor’s note: The following is an update and rewrite of an earlier version of this article that was first posted on February 10.

On January 25, Donald Trump signed an executive order that paves the way for a major escalation in persecution and terror aimed at immigrants. As a cutting edge of that attack, the order threatens “sanctuary jurisdictions”— cities, counties, and states that refuse to detain undocumented immigrants who have been arrested for minor offenses and not convicted of any crime, so they can be deported by the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency (ICE). And shortly after Trump’s executive order, ICE conducted highly publicized and egregiously vicious raids in areas around the country, ripping parents from their children, grabbing people on their way to or from work, banging on doors, deporting people who have lived the vast majority of their lives in this country, and terrorizing and sending shock waves throughout immigrant communities.

In response, there is growing struggle of thousands of people standing with the immigrants and against the persecution, raids, and deportations. That resistance is just and must grow, and the sanctuary movement must be supported and strengthened, both because of the stakes of this battle for tens of millions, and because right now it is a key front in the battle to resist and drive out the Trump-Pence fascist regime.

What Are “Sanctuary Jurisdictions”?

Many states, counties, and cities have laws and policies that provide undocumented immigrants with some legal rights and access to services that allow them to function and survive. In 12 states and the District of Columbia, undocumented people can get driver’s licenses. Many cities issue their own form of government IDs that allow undocumented people access to some services ranging from medical care to school enrollment to library cards. States, counties, and cities, but also schools, social service agencies, and other institutions, have policies that they will not inquire as to the immigration status of people seeking their services. In addition, there is a wide range of public and private institutions—colleges and universities; churches, mosques, synagogues—that offer different degrees and forms of sanctuary, up to and including announcing they will defy and resist any attempt to detain or deport undocumented people.

The specific policy targeted by Trump’s executive order is the policy of not holding undocumented people in local jails simply in order to deport them. The cities and some other jurisdictions that are under attack do send information on everyone they detain to ICE, as required by federal law. But if ICE determines that someone being held is undocumented, and requests that the person be held for deportation, sanctuary jurisdictions do not honor those requests. There is nothing illegal about that. Even more to the point, turning people over to ICE to be deported because they violated traffic laws, or open-bottle laws, or are accused of other violations, is cruel, vicious, and unconscionable. These policies of sanctuary jurisdictions are a layer of protection for people who would otherwise be living completely in the shadows, in constant fear that any encounter with law enforcement can tear a family apart, ruin lives, and send people—even people who have lived in this country almost their entire lives—out of the country.

Millions of undocumented immigrants live in places that do not provide even the level of protection of living in a sanctuary jurisdiction. Their lives will be even more tenuous with Trump’s new executive order (see "First Deportation Under Trump's Fascist Order on Immigrants").

STAND UP to Trump’s Attack

If sanctuary jurisdictions are destroyed or crippled, life will get far, far worse for immigrants. Millions of immigrants who today—if they manage to avoid getting into legal trouble—are able to at least live, work, and go to school, will be forced into conditions where they cannot even do that. This will have an unimaginable impact on millions and millions of immigrants—documented and undocumented—as well as their friends, their families. It will open the door to criminalizing doctors, teachers, and others who provide services to undocumented people without turning them in for deportation. It will have a horrible impact on society as a whole. It simply CANNOT GO DOWN!

And this attack on sanctuary jurisdictions is not just some scattershot, terrible thing. It is a terrible thing, but it is a key piece of the whole vision and mission of the Trump-Pence fascist regime: demonization, persecution, and driving immigrants out of the U.S.—at least ones who don’t fit into their definition of “white”—and is central and essential to their hellish agenda to “Make America White Again.” For them, there is no turning back in the war on immigrants. They have whipped up mobs of people who believe they are “entitled” to going back—way back—to a nightmarish era of U.S. history, and worse. That requires the violent ethnic cleansing of America.

What people have done so far in response to Trump’s all-out war on immigrants has been very important and inspiring. The outpourings of tens of thousands of people at airports in response to Trump’s ban on Muslims from seven countries entering the U.S., along with the massive women’s marches the day after Trump’s inauguration, sent a message to the world that there was profound, widespread outrage. The direct action people took, for example, to attempt to prevent the deportation of Guadalupe Garcia de Rayos in Phoenix was righteous—and everyone revolted by the Trump-Pence fascist regime has to be prepared to take that kind of stand.

There is some complexity to the battle around sanctuary jurisdictions. They are concessions to decades of struggle and resistance to attacks on immigrants, but these concessions are limited. Even in sanctuary jurisdictions, undocumented immigrants still live precarious lives. In some states and large cities, in particular, high-level Democratic Party officials do have real and sharp differences with Trump’s attack on sanctuary jurisdictions and have spoken out defiantly. Even as their starting point is not the fundamental humanity of immigrants, they fear the tremendous economic, social, and political disruption if Trump’s policies are implemented. All of this points to a need for people to join in to not just defend, but expand the protection of sanctuary jurisdictions.

The battle to defend immigrants and sanctuary jurisdictions is life-and-death in its own right. And there are even bigger stakes. Trump’s threats against sanctuary jurisdictions take place in the context of, and in service of, the regime moving to tighten a death grip on the levers of state power. It is connected to moves to tear down other state-, county-, and city-based concessions like protection for LGBT rights, civil rights ordinances, and environmental protection rules. In response to moves to make California a sanctuary state, Trump threatened, “If we have to, we’ll defund.” And then he said, “California in many ways is out of control, as you know.” All of this has the potential to become a flashpoint in society, eruptions of conflict that could prove pivotal to whether or not the Trump-Pence fascist regime can fully consolidate power.

Attacks on immigrants and sanctuary jurisdictions specifically must be resisted! Sanctuary protections need to be defended and extended. The resistance to attacks on immigrants needs to become more widespread and determined and draw in millions and tens of millions. But the attacks will continue to escalate, to become more terrible and violent, until Trump is driven from office. The battle to defend immigrant rights can, and to have a real lasting impact must, be intensified, and joined in a torrent of struggle to drive out the fascist regime.

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