The Trump Administration’s immigration enforcement tactics — from forcible family separations, to so-called collateral detentions, to menacing tweets that warn of sweeping round-ups — are based on cruelty, fear, and division.
Here in New Rochelle, this is not some distant, abstract concern. ICE conducted operations in our city this very week, and while only a tiny fraction of our residents will directly encounter an ICE officer, thousands of others experience the suffocating fear that comes with knowing one’s life can be upended in an instant. If you are not personally affected, then please try to imagine this feeling; imagine finding it necessary to retreat from any public space, hide behind a locked door, and treat with suspicion anyone who approaches. This is the daily reality for many of our neighbors, children included. And to be very clear, it isn’t a by-product of the Trump Administration’s actions and statements on immigration, it is the goal: a strategy of threat and alienation specifically and intentionally designed to terrorize whole communities and demonize all immigrants, far beyond just the subjects of specific raids.
So what can we do?
Individuals and families at risk can make sure they know their rights. The City posted information from the American Immigration Lawyers Association on its website last week, and there are many other sources of similar information, including from local advocacy organizations.
Allies of immigrant residents can familiarize themselves with this same information and also be especially mindful of the difficult challenges being visited upon neighbors. It is a good time to reach out affirmatively, express friendship, and offer support.
The City’s options are frustratingly limited, and the information received by our PD is minimal. Impeding ICE operations is neither legal, nor advisable, and even providing general notification of impending ICE activities would be ineffective and impractical. But let me take this opportunity to state, as I have in the past, that: (1) the New Rochelle Police do not and will not engage in immigration enforcement; (2) our local civic and Police leadership recognize that everyone’s safety depends on a relationship of trust with immigrant residents; and, most importantly, (3) New Rochelle is one community, where everyone of good will is respected and welcomed.
If there is any positive news, it is that the President’s ugly and shameful policies are rejected by the great majority of Americans. In fact, a broad consensus exists about the right way to approach immigration reform. Most people believe that DACA recipients should be embraced and protected immediately, that undocumented immigrants who are otherwise law-abiding and taxpaying members of their communities should have a pathway to citizenship, and that immigration enforcement should be targeted toward individuals who are genuine threats to public safety, and not toward families and children. I hope that these sensible, humane principles can be put into action beginning in January 2021. It will be a long and often painful wait until then.