Mayors resist Trump's immigration policies: ‘We cannot submit to a bully’

Olivia Solon in Austin, Texas
Santa Fe mayor Javier Gonzales on Donald Trump: ‘When you do it once, you agree to be bullied every step of the way.’ Photograph: Evan Vucci/AP

Donald Trump is a bully whose immigration policies represent a threat to the safety and prosperity of American cities, according to the mayors of sanctuary cities Santa Fe and Philadelphia.

“Just being able to have a city people can feel proud of,” said Santa Fe mayor Javier Gonzales, “that is under threat because of the president’s efforts to expand the role of Ice and disrupt and demonize many immigrants and their families in a way that’s very harmful to our cities.”

Speaking in a panel at SXSW, he added: “We know that having welcoming, inclusive societies in our communities is the key formula for having a higher quality of life and more productivity when it comes to the economy.”

Philadelphia mayor James Kenney agreed. He was concerned about Trump’s attempt to force local police and sheriffs to enforce federal immigration law.

“We don’t allow our police officers to act as an arm of federal government and ask people about status or documentation or ethnicity. That’s not their jobs,” he said. The local judicial system does, however, turn people over to federal agents when there’s a warrant, he noted. “But if they want to go on a fishing expedition, we are not participating.”

Kenney said that the Trump administration’s policies could violate the constitution’s fourth amendment protection against unreasonable searches and seizures. He added that he believes the orders are inhumane and also leave cities vulnerable to being sued.

Both Kenney and Gonzales described Trump as a bully.

“We cannot submit to the will of a bully. When you do it once, you agree to be bullied every step of the way,” Gonzales said.

“If you participate in enabling the bully and give them support to be a bigger bully than they already are, then you are a bully too,” Kenney said. “I’m not going to throw any of our immigrant community under the bus because we have a president who is a demagogue.”

I’m not going to throw any of our immigrant community under the bus because we have a president who is a demagogue

Philadelphia mayor James Kenney

Both were concerned that there will be more attacks on their cities’ autonomy in the future, including on LGBT rights, but felt confident that threats to withdraw federal funding from sanctuary cities would fail.

“I don’t believe president has any lawful way of making that happen,” said Gonzales.

Both mayors outlined some of the ways they encourage inclusivity in their communities. Santa Fe adopted a resolution to ensure that neither law enforcement nor employment services would ask for status or documentation. “We don’t want to be in the business of having a database of our citizenry,” Gonzales said.

He also said that during visits to schools and community centers, he had met students who are “terrified about what will happen to their families”. Gonzales said that officials are “reassuring the community that we will hold strong on policies and not bend even with the threat of losing federal dollars”.

Philadelphia places an emphasis on language access for immigrant communities to “respect other people’s culture”, Kenney said. He encourages immigrants to learn English but not to lose their native tongues, either. The city also held a Soccer World Cup to bring immigrant communities together to play at Citizen Bank Park, home of the Philadelphia Phillies baseball team. “It wasn’t that complicated or expensive but it had a great impact,” Kenney said.

“Let’s celebrate immigration. Let’s not be fearful of it,” he added.

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