Multiple cities across the nation are at odds with the Trump administration’s ongoing efforts to strictly enforce federal immigration law. Rather than acting alone as sanctuary cities in separate spheres, officials from 30 of these municipalities have joined forces in the first ever national meeting of sanctuary cities.
Americans attend approximately 11 million business meetings every day, but it’s rare that a meeting is as consequential as this meeting of the minds between officials from cities like New York City, Chicago, and New Haven. Held on March 27 and 28, the two-day conference in New York served several purposes, the first of which was to send a message of unity.
“The message is that we cannot hide, even when we are under attack,” said the first Latina New York City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito, a leader at the forefront of this movement.
Mark-Viverito explained that this meeting is the first of many steps that will better link sanctuary cities across the nation, both in blue states like California and New York and in red states like Texas. When she spoke at the conference, she stressed the importance of sharing resources and staying in contact to promote a bigger, more unified movement in the future.
The meeting came soon after Attorney General Jeff Sessions threatened to cut federal grants to sanctuary cities if they continue defying a federal law that allows information to be shared with immigration officials. He said the department will also “take all lawful steps to claw back” funds from jurisdictions that knowingly violate the law.
However, that might be easier said than done. Officials in multiple fields, including legal experts and local politicians that support sanctuary city policies, say that the president and his administration cannot carry out these “lawful steps” without violating the U.S. Constitution.
Sanctuary cities and their defenders say that deporting immigrants isn’t a role that cities should have to play. In fact, experts say that most sanctuary policies abide by the law.
Ana Maria Archila, who was also at the national conference in New York, is co-director at the Center for Popular Democracy, and she has thrown her support fully behind the nation’s many sanctuary cities. She said that after the national meeting, her goal in the short term is to use the tools gathered there to develop quick, efficient strategies to protect immigrants across the country.
“I never thought we would be in this situation where we constantly have to think about protecting people from the federal government. That’s the reality of today,” said Archila.