Do Black People Need Sanctuary Cities Too?

Whether it’s stop-and-frisk or no-knock raids, both undocumented immigrants and U.S.-born Black folks have a vested stake in redefining what sanctuary really means.

The barrage of actions from the Trump administration aimed at immigrant, refugee, Muslim, and LGBTQ communities (all of which include Black people) has caused fear and uncertainty for many.

One executive order threatens to cut federal funding to cities with “sanctuary” policies for undocumented immigrants and refugees, which limits cooperation between local police and federal immigration agents. And in displays of political grandstanding, mayors in progressive cities have vowed to remain sanctuaries despite the threats.

But many of today’s sanctuary cities exclude large numbers of immigrants from protection because of their involvement with the criminal justice system or alleged gang member status. These exclusions build on former President Obama’s “felons, not families” rhetoric (as though people who have committed crimes do not have families), which continues to drive an unprecedented number of undocumented immigrants into detention and deportation.

When I hear the word “sanctuary,” I envision a place that is safe for everyone — regardless of citizenship status, gender, religion, or any other marker that deems one “other” in this country. That vision does not include Donald Trump, the National Guard, Immigration and Customs Enforcement, Border Patrol nor local police departments. I envision self-sustaining, well-resourced communities with strong bonds and networks of people who call on each other in times of need. Without addressing safety and protections for all targeted communities, sanctuary is a misnomer.

Both the immigration and criminal justice systems have always been linked and racialized. So, it is no surprise that Black immigrants are at heightened risk of detention and deportation. Just as police contact can have disastrous consequences for Black undocumented immigrants, we know all too well what police contact can mean for Black people born in the U.S.

Whether it’s stop-and-frisk or no-knock raids, both undocumented immigrants and U.S.-born Black folks have a vested stake in redefining what sanctuary really means, and in resisting Trump’s “law-and-order” agenda. Trump has made it clear that he is committed to strengthening all law enforcement, not just immigration agents. Thus, policies that address racist policing, incarceration and criminalization must be part of the demands of the immigrant rights movement. As long as the immigration and criminal justice systems are interconnected, creating real sanctuary cities is an issue of linked fate and real practical, principled solidarity.

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Source: Essence | Janaé Bonsu

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