Filed Under:  OpEd

With sanctuary for some

25th September 2017   ·   0 Comments

By Edmund W. Lewis

Wouldn’t it be nice if “Sanctuary Cities” could also provide sanctuary for Black, Brown and poor men, women and children, a safe space where these historically oppressed groups could be protected from economic injustice, mass incarceration, prosecutorial misconduct, unconstitutional policing, educational apartheid, slave wages, housing discrimination, health care disparities, systemic racism and classism and domestic terrorism?

According to Wikipedia, “a sanctuary, in its original meaning, is defined as a sacred place, such as a shrine. A sanctuary, in its original meaning, is a sacred place, such as a shrine. By the use of such places as a haven, by extension the term has come to be used for any place of safety.”

In recent years, which have been marked by a rise in domestic terrorism, tremendous growth among white supremacist group, increased violence aimed at non-white Americans and concerted efforts to turn back the clock in America and give whites an unfair advantage over all other groups in the U.S., the use of sanctuaries to shield historically oppressed groups from unfair government policies, criminalization, vilification and unfair practices like wage discrimination and deportation has grown.

According to a recent article on Popsugar US, there are currently about 300 sanctuary cities, counties and states in the U.S. What that designation entails can vary from one sanctuary city to the next, with some sanctuary cities refusing to allocate public funds for the enforcement of questionable immigration laws and polices, with other sanctuary cities making a concerted effort to neutralize immigration laws and practices that treat all non-white Americans like criminals who entered the U.S. illegally and are a drain on local, state and federal budgets and others doing everything in their power to prevent local police departments from detaining people for the specific purpose of investigating their immigration status.

The origins of sanctuary cities go all the way back to 1979, when Los Angeles, a pioneer in this movement to protect immigrants’ rights, passed laws to prevent police from detaining people for the purpose of checking their immigration status. These laws sought to protect people fleeing violence and persecution in places like Central America who were often denied refugee status by some U.S. officials and agencies. The movement gained steam in the 1980s with the support of faith-based institutions and other groups committed to protecting the human rights of newcomers to the U.S.

Counted among the many sanctuary cities are New York City, San Francisco, Chicago, Seattle and New Orleans.

Anyone who has been paying attention to the Trump administration’s efforts to ban Muslim immigrants from entering the United States, his use of the word “rapists” to refer to Mexican immigrants, his efforts to build a wall between Mexico and the U.S. to keep Mexicans from crossing the border in search of a better life for themselves and their families and his actions to expel “Dreamers” by doing away with the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals initiative, know all too well how much this nation needs places and individuals who are committed to providing sanctuary to our immigrant brothers and sisters who come here in search of a better life.

It would be nice if America didn’t need elected officials and public servants willing to do what they can to neutralize laws and policies that unfairly target, harass, criminalize and oppress immigrants, but that’s not the case.

Those who create laws and policies to keep immigrants of color out of the U.S. have used fear of terrorism, distrust of other cultures and anger about the current job market to convince the white masses to support these oppressive tactics and practices.

What many don’t seem to understand is that by continuing to criminalize and vilify immigrants of color and others in the global village, the United States is becoming isolated in the international community and losing its credibility among the nations that espouse principles and goals like justice, democracy and equity.

The nation also continues to lose credibility in the global village as people around the world view images of law enforcement officers exterminating Black, Brown and poor people and far too often getting away with murder.

It is becoming increasingly difficult for America to try to throw its weight around with the United Nations when it routinely violates the human rights of Black, Brown and poor people in its own backyard.

Unlike our immigrant brothers and sisters who, while under fire from the Trump administration and others, have some havens where they can find shelter from the oppression being unleashed on them, Black, Brown and poor people have no such refuge or sanctuary. This is true despite the fact that Black people arrived in America in 1619, a year before the “Pilgrims” landed at Plymouth Rock and have fought in every war this nation has waged since the French & Indian War.

Instead of enforcement of the rights guaranteed to all citizens of the United States by the Constitution, people of color and the poor receive taxation without representation, mistreatment, disrespect, neglect, harassment, abuse, oppression, domestic terrorism and extermination.

Immigrants of color and people of color in the United States wouldn’t need sanctuary cities, the Civil Rights Act, Voting Rights Act or any of the laws that prohibit abuse or discrimination of any kind if elected officials, political parties and political action committees played by the rules and adhered to the U.S. Constitution. Unfortunately, history has proven many times that that’s not going to happen.

There is always going to be some individual, group or entity that sees nothing wrong with the concept of “justice for some” and act in a manner that demonstrates their belief in the Supreme Court decision that said Black people have no rights that whites are bound by law to respect.

Wanting those in power to do the right thing and follow the law is essentially pointless. Our best bet is to do a better job of linking our efforts with those of other oppressed groups around the world and immigrants of color and consolidate that power to show those who are in control that we will no longer tolerate being treated like second- or third-class citizens in a nation we played a critical role in building and enriching.

Like Frederick Douglass said, “Power concedes nothing without a demand — it never did and it never will.”

It’s way past time to get serious about amassing and harnessing our power, establishing clear-cut goals and strategies for achieving self-determination and coming together in unity of purpose and thought.

Together, we are formidable and powerful beyond our wildest dreams.

Just as none of us are free until all of us are free, none of us are safe until all of us are safe.

All power to the people.

This article originally published in the September 25, 2017 print edition of The Louisiana Weekly newspaper.

Readers Comments (0)

You must be logged in to post a comment.