Commentary

06.02.17

It’s On Us: Declaring and Defending Sanctuary Cities

By

Austin Kocher, COWA President

Over the past several months, sanctuary cities have been under increased scrutiny by federal officials. We can’t allow this.

Why Sanctuary Cities?

Sanctuary cities have adopted social, economic and political policies to protect the constitutional rights of all their residents, particularly those who are undocumented. These policies may prevent public officials and law enforcement from asking about one’s immigration status, or outline how law enforcement officers should respond to detainer requests.

Detainer requests are written notifications sent to law enforcement authorities by ICE asking them to detain an individual for an additional 48 hours after they are otherwise eligible for release.

Undocumented immigrants are regularly targets of racial profiling and immigration raids. They are detained in local jails without access to legal counsel or court hearings. This has caused increased mistrust between police and immigrants. Evidence shows that women and children are refusing to report domestic abuse and workers are refusing to report labor exploitation out of fear of deportation.

There are numerous people on the front lines of grassroots immigrant organizing. The Central Ohio Worker Center (COWC) represents non-unionized low-income and immigrant workers in Ohio and provide services like translation and Know Your Rights trainings in order to combat wage theft, illegal workplace practices, and union busting. El Centro de Servicios Sociales, founded in 1974, provides support to the Lorain Latino/a community, including English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) lessons, citizenship classes, mobile Mexican consulates, medical and mental health interpretation, and community health programs. People from Spanish-speaking countries largely immigrated to Lorain because the National Tubing Company of U.S. Steel in South Lorain recruited Mexican workers in the 1920s and Puerto Rican workers in the late 1940s. Factory positions guaranteed employment and residency, but no assistance beyond that. Deindustrialization in the late 1970s and 1980s – combined with the slashing of social safety nets – hit marginalized communities like these the hardest.

Meet Anabel Barron, Beloved Community Organizer

Despite the growing fear, immigrants all across the country – from Burlington to Austin to Lorain – are bravely telling their stories. El Centro caseworker and Lorain Ohio Immigrant Rights Association Vice-President Anabel Barron crossed the U.S.-Mexico Border twice: first when she was sixteen and again after returning from her mother’s funeral. Her father, also living in Mexico, suffers from Alzheimer’s. In an interview, Barron said, “I know one day they’re going to call me and that I will not go to his funeral because that would put me in jeopardy again. How do you live like that?”

“As a mother, and probably mothers will understand what I’m saying, you do everything for your kids… This is not me being in articles or doing interviews. No. This is for the American community to know our life. That we don’t have a choice.”

In 2013, the police stopped her for driving six miles over the limit and cited her for driving without a valid license. Now she must report annually to ICE’s local office. This year, over thirty community members accompanied Barron to her check-in as a show of support.

Join the ACLU of Ohio in Conversation

Policies that promoted deindustrialization came in tandem with the rise of mass incarceration. Rising unemployment and incarceration are a dangerous combination for marginalized communities, who are targeted for low-level, non-violent crimes like traffic violations or loitering. Sanctuary cities are part of the solution. Mass incarceration is fueled by unnecessary arrests – arrests that could be prevented with the implementation and maintenance of sanctuary cities. Hearing stories like Anabel Barron’s or debunking policies like COWC does is the first step towards change. As the ACLU of Ohio, it’s on us to make sure that the cities across the state do their job: protect undocumented immigrants by defending sanctuary cities. So join us when COWC President Austin Kocher speaks at the Cleveland office of the ACLU of Ohio on June 13 at 5:30 p.m. The event is free and open to the public, though reservations are encouraged via our website.

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