The results of the presidential election highlight a starkly divided nation: people are hurting, and many feel their voices have been silenced and their needs ignored – even as their day-to-day struggles have grown. Millions of Americans who voted for President-Elect Donald Trump set aside the problematic and hateful rhetoric of his campaign and took a leap of faith for so-called “change,” in the hopes that their voices would finally be heard and that his presidency would bring them economic prosperity. But what good is this economic growth if it is at the cost of hatred, fear, and harm for marginalized groups? Take, for example, the millions of undocumented immigrants, whose present and future are filled with heightened fear and uncertainty due to the great emphasis that the president-elect has placed on deportation.
There are currently over 11 million unauthorized immigrants in the United States, approximately 76 percent of whom fled violence in Mexico and Central America’s Northern Triangle region, comprised of El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras, where uncontrollable mass violence and organized crime have become the norm. In 2016 alone, about 409,000 migrants from these countries were caught trying to cross the southwestern border of the United States. Unaccompanied children and families have fled, leaving behind their homes and loved ones with the hopes of escaping gang violence, rape, assault, and extortion. According to a 2015 report by the United Nation’s Office on Drugs and Crime, Honduras, El Salvador, and Guatemala, rank first, fifth, and sixth, respectively, for violent crime. August 2015 was the deadliest month in El Salvador since the country’s 13-year long civil war ended in 1992, with an average of one murder occurring every hour. For these individuals, crossing the border is more than just a search for a better life; it’s a fight to live.
In Trump’s First 100 Days plan, he highlights his goal to defund all sanctuary cities. While there is no uniform definition of a sanctuary city, generally they are defined as cities that do not fully cooperate with federal immigration officers and refuse to identify undocumented immigrants for deportation, unless they have committed serious crimes. Sanctuary cities have been an integral part of the U.S. since the 1980s, when religious institutions provided refuge to undocumented immigrants from Central America who were fleeing violent civil wars and were denied refuge by the U.S. These cities continue to be vital today, because they improve public safety and allow immigrants to feel comfortable reporting crimes in their communities. So, the thought of the president-elect speaking of immediately deporting 2-3 million undocumented immigrants is frightening.
Fortunately, mayors across major cities like New York City, San Francisco, and Chicago have vowed to continue fighting for undocumented immigrant rights and the preservation of American ideals, despite the threat to federal funding. New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio stood up and said that New York City will continue to stand by and protect its values. He also confirmed that he will not be providing the federal government with data from the successful IDNYC program that gave over 863,000 New Yorkers identification. Likewise, Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel articulated that Chicago has and will continue to be a city of immigrants. And regardless of the change in administration, Chicago’s values and commitment to inclusion will not change.
Considering that 80 percent of the U.S. GDP is generated by cities, when cities come together and pool their resources they can be extremely influential. As Benjamin Barber, author and founder of the Global Parliament of Mayors explains: “The horizontal separation of powers is no longer an adequate check. But there is also a vertical separation of powers, called federalism.” Cities will serve as a source of hope, and, as seen by the overwhelming response of major city leaders, there will be a fight to protect the right of undocumented immigrants and preserve the rights of all Americans.