"Each time a man stands up for an ideal, or acts to improve the lot of others, or strikes out against injustice, he sends forth a tiny ripple of hope, and crossing each other from a million different centers of energy and daring, those ripples can build a current that can sweep down the mightiest walls of oppression and resistance". ~Robert KennedyLike many sanctuary communities across America, Ithaca will NOT stand down...Unanimous vote: Ithaca now a Sanctuary City with some teeth
by Jolene Almendarez
February 2, 2017
ITHACA, N.Y. -- After nearly two hours of public comment and at least 30 speakers in favor of a newly proposed ordinance, Ithaca's Common Council unanimously voted to add teeth to its Sanctuary City policy, which was first passed in 1985, for Salvadoran and Guatemalan refugees
City officials, including police officers, are now specifically directed to not ask for a person's immigration status unless the person is actively committing a crime related to their status. The legal ordinance means that local law enforcement will not enforce federal immigration laws.
The ordinance was passed, officials said, based not only on ethical and moral grounds but because data shows that Sanctuary Cities -- in comparison to non-Sanctuary Cities -- have less crime, higher median rates of income, lower rates of unemployment and lower rates of poverty.
Alderman Ducson Nguyen, 2nd Ward, supported the ordinance saying, "It is deeply personal to me. I know you all know my parents are refugees."
Related-- Op-ed: My refugee parents and our American lives
He said the first few days of Donald Trump's presidency -- which has so far seen seven controversial executive orders signed and at least 11 memos issued, many about immigration and health care -- has been tough.
"I felt hopeless for a while," he said, but the highly publicly supported ordinance felt like a concrete thing that he and the city could do to fight back.
Alderman Cynthia Brock, 1st Ward, first proposed the ordinance draft to the City Administration Committee meeting on Jan. 18. She said during the meeting Wednesday night that while the new ordinance was a necessary step toward protecting the community, it was a day late and a dollar short.
Alderman Cynthia Brock, 1st Ward, listens to public comments during a Common Council meeting Wednesday about strengthening Ithaca as a Sanctuary City.
"But I want to say also that to a certain extent ....my efforts were a bit opportunistic in the sense that, honestly, President Obama was the deporter in chief. He deported more individuals than the previous two administrations combined. But I didn't think we had the energy or the wherewithal or commitment to take that controversial step and enact this into policy without the situation that we now live in," Brock said. "This policy is good policy. It is best practices. And it should have been in place decades. So while we are doing this in response to the times, it is an oversite that...it didn't happen until 2016 for any of us to sit down and ask, 'What does that mean?'"
All Common Council members and Mayor Svante Myrick spoke in favor of the ordinance. But while they are usually lush with commentary about big issues, they left most of the talking about the ordinance to the more than 125 people who attended the meeting, spilling out into the hallway and into an overflow room on the second floor.
Some of the people spoke beyond their allotted three minutes of permitted public comment period. Others spoke for less than 30 seconds. But nearly everybody attended the meeting to speak in favor of the ordinance. Nobody spoke out against it.
Ithacan Adriane Wolfe, whose father is a Greencard holder from Austria, said that over the past few days, she has experienced looking at the immigration orders from that of a concerned citizen, analytically thinking about the issue and realizing how awful it was for other people, to somebody who could be directly impacted by Trump's executive orders.
A leaked draft of a potential executive order indicated that legal immigrants could be subject to deportation for using social services.
While the details of what an order could mean for Greencard holders is not completely clear, Wolfe said it indicates that Trump is likely not done passing major policies with just the stroke of his pen. And it means she feels less certain about her father's future in the country.
"And it's not just and intellectual process. This is how we value human dignity. To penalize him for, as someone in his 70s, for accessing food -- is something...it breaks my heart," she said in tears."It is important to realize that real families can be ripped apart."
Walaa Maherem-Horan -- who became an American Citizen a few years ago -- said she was born in Egypt and has lived in England, Canada and the United States. She said she chooses to make Ithaca her home, where she has her work, friends and family.
Maherem-Horan, an Ithaca Welcomes Refugees board member, said that last summer, the group helped an Iraqi man become a legally permanent resident in the country. But he recently went back home to visit his family and is now stranded in Iraq because of Trump's executive order travel ban. And his family in Ithaca cannot go back home to visit their ailing mother.
But the difficulties don't end there for Maherem-Horan. She said that she is worried that even as a legal citizen of this country, her naturalized status will still put her at risk for ending up on a nationally publicized registry or at risk for deportation.
"The idea that we could be separated despite having done nothing wrong -- I don't even have a speeding ticket -- is scary," she said.https://ithacavoice.com/2017/02/unanimous-vote-ithaca-now-sanctuary-city-teeth/