Local leaders loudly decry Trump orders on immigration

A chaotic first week and a half under President Donald Trump spurred mass protests across the country in support of immigrants after the president took aim at so-called “sanctuary” cities and instituted a temporary ban on those entering the United States from seven majority-Muslim countries.

Local and state officials have been unrelenting in their opposition to the orders, which have led to confusion over their implementation.

Among the more than two dozen executive orders the president signed in his first 10 days in office were several focused on dealing with immigration, a central focus of his campaign. Last Wednesday, Jan. 25, Trump signed an order calling for the construction of a Mexican border wall – without specifying how the structure would be paid for – and another expanding immigration enforcement actions.

The second order specifically targeted “sanctuary cities” like Boston, Denver, San Francisco, New York City, and Washington D.C., which by policy do not prosecute on behalf of the federal government immigrants who are in the country illegally. In threatening to withhold federal funding for cities that do not comply with US immigration policy, the president said, “These jurisdictions have caused immeasurable harm to the American people and to the very fabric of our republic.”

Mayor Martin Walsh spoke out firmly against the orders on the day they were issued. Flanked by city and state officials, the mayor said he was “disturbed and angry” by the actions and the city “will not retreat one inch. We will not be intimidated by threats to federal funding. We have each other’s backs and we have the Constitution of the United States on our side.”

He added, “I want to say directly to anyone who feels threatened or vulnerable today: You are safe in Boston. I will do everything lawful in my power to protect you. If necessary, I will use City Hall itself to shelter and protect anyone targeted unjustly.”

The son of Irish immigrants, Walsh highlighted Boston’s diversity – 28 percent of city residents are immigrants, and 48 percent have at least one foreign-born parent.

A 2014 Boston Planning and Development report showed that almost half of Boston’s foreign-born population hails from Latin America, with the Hispanic/Latino segment up by 74.5 percent from 1990 to 2010. In terms of overall heritage, the Irish, both native and foreign-born, account for 16.1 percent of the population of Boston.

Another controversial order, signed last Friday, launched weekend protests at international airports across the country, including at Logan. Pledging to keep “radical Islamic terrorists” out of the country, Trump closed down new-refugee admissions for 120 days and blocked travelers from seven Muslim-majority countries — Iraq, Iran, Syria, Yemen, Sudan, Libya and Somalia — for 90 days. Syrian refugees were banned indefinitely.

“President Trump has sought to sell the American public bigotry he’s labeled as “security,” said state Rep. Evandro Carvalho on Monday. “His campaign’s Muslim ban morphed into this ban on majority-Muslim countries. He’s threatened to deny funding to cities who don’t participate in a voluntary federal program. Our judicial system was designed to thwart these types of political whims that violate our fundamental principles.”

Rulings in three federal courts within 48 hours of that order stayed enforcement and required that lawyers be given access to anyone caught in legal limbo when they arrived at US airports. Confusion reigned in the immediate aftermath, with immigrants holding green cards detained along with visitors and immigrants with diverse visas. Homeland Security officials clarified on Sunday that residents with green cards are not subject to the ban.

“I wish I could say I was surprised by the executive orders themselves,” said District Four City Councillor Andrea Campbell on Monday. “Nothing coming out of this administration seems to surprise me anymore.”

Noting the value of legal protections for vulnerable groups, Campbell said seeing the rush to provide aid to detained immigrants made her “proud to be an attorney.” She added, “I think this is why we have attorneys and why we have a justice system, to protect against other systems that would take away rights and privileges that should be afforded to all.”

The immigration orders are now the subject of lawsuits from several state attorneys general, including Maura Healey of Massachusetts, and the University of Massachusetts seeking to void them. Their argument is that they violate residents’ rights to religious freedom and due process.

Additional reaction from elected officials in Dorchester was firm in their opposition to Trumps’ actions.
“These can’t be efforts about making America great again when what makes America great is that we are a beacon and place of refuge for immigrants and refugees,” said City Councillor at-large Ayanna Pressley. “Not only am I encouraged by the solidarity demonstrated by elected leadership in the face of these threats to our democracy, I am also incredibly encouraged and emboldened to continue to do this work because of the efforts of citizens advocates,” she said, taking note of the recent Women’s March: “There was some skepticism, and I can’t pretend that I didn’t fear that it would be a powerful moment, but just a moment. And we are seeing that this is more than just a moment, that it is in fact a movement.”

City Councillor Tito Jackson, who is challenging Walsh for his mayoral seat, introduced a resolution to affirm sanctuary schools in the Boston Public Schools system at the council’s meeting on Wednesday. The resolution affirms that immigration enforcement officials be prohibited from entering school grounds without explicit administration permission and that the school system refuse to share all voluntary information with the federal enforcement agencies.

State officials echoed the feelings of their city counterparts.

Calling the Trump orders part of a “dark cloud of regressive and detrimental policy,” state Sen. Linda Dorcena Forry said the legal orders and public responses have been a bright point in the chaos. “This is not the America my parents worked so hard to become a part of, nor is it the America that I have dedicated my life to in public service,” she said, pledging a continuing commitment “to fight for Massachusetts so that true American values are upheld for all and does not allow fear and bigotry to prevail.”

“President Trump is masking racism and xenophobia as public policy,” said state Rep. Dan Cullinane. “But more than that he is wasting an exorbitant amount of federal resources and funds to carry out his unilateral decisions with seemingly no interest in the details. For the Department of Homeland Security, the Justice Department, and the State Department not to be consulted and or listened to prior to these extreme actions is disturbing.”

Congressman Stephen Lynch has scheduled a town hall meeting for tomorrow (Friday, Feb. 3) at Milton High School beginning at 7 p.m. He said that the forum, ‘Keeping America Safe While Preserving Our Constitutional Rights,’ “will be an opportunity for constituents to come together to discuss the legal implications of President Trump’s executive actions, to discuss what can be done to resist any infringements of Constitutional rights and discuss existing and ongoing efforts to ensure safety in our homeland, and to provide resources for those who may need assistance.”

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