Monday, February 27, 2017

Sanctuary Cities is the way to support migrants in the U.S

My name is Beth. I am an active member of the Arlington-Teosinte Sister City Project.

 Arlington is currently holding public debate over whether to become a Sanctuary City. 

Volunteers with the Arlington-Teosinte Sister City Project are taking this opportunity to 

"put a human face" on immigration, and to share information about the impact of US 

policies in Central America. Here are some tips from our experience.

Unite, don't divide. Acknowledge that the loss of federal funding is a real and legitimate 

concern. While so far legal precedent suggests that the Trump Administration could only 

legally cut off Department of Homeland Security funding, Sanctuary City supporters need 

to commit to standing up to defend residents' access to federal funds for subsidized 

housing, for schools and other programs, if it comes to that. Likewise, if possible frame 

your support for Sanctuary Cities as supporting your community police in doing their 

rightful job, and in encouraging all people who live and work in your community to feel 

safe reporting crimes.

Below are some points that we have shared in our community that are helping to (1) 

educate community members, and (2) build support for the Sanctuary City resolution.
1. In this political climate, a public commitment to sanctuary/community policing is 

necessary to counter what the Trump administration is saying and doing.  Under Trump 

ICE has arrested and deported people who have no criminal record other than being in 

the US without documentation, including a 23-year old DACA (Dreamer) eligible young 

man. Kids are afraid to go to school; parents are afraid to go to work. If we want people 

who live and work in in our communities, without documentation, OR those who 

might be assumed to be immigrants, to feel safe reporting crime to our police, we 

have to make a public commitment and put something at stake, by becoming a 

Sanctuary City.

2. Trump is using immigrants as scapegoats in order to gain power. The rate of 

unauthorized immigration into the US is flat. It is not rising. Immigrants, including those 

without documentation, have a lower crime rate than US-born citizens. Deporting those 

who live in the US without documentation will devastate our economy. Trump's policies 

make no sense - except for him. Scapegoats make a complicated world look simple, and 

give everyone a bad guy to hate. This really does have echos of the rise of Hitler. How 

many of us have wondered why German citizens didn't stop Hitler? The Sanctuary City 

approach is a way to oppose Trump's scapegoating.

3. There is no legal route open for the large percentage of immigrants without 

documentation who are actually refugees. As sister city people, we know the 

"backstory" about unauthorized immigration that many in our communities do not. More 

than half of unauthorized immigrants through Mexico are from El Salvador, Honduras and 

Guatemala. The UNHCR and advocacy groups have done studies, showing that about 60% 

of the migrants from El Salvador, Honduras and Guatemala meet the criteria to be 

considered refugees. Studies show that without a lawyer, over 90% of those seeking 

asylum are deported. Very few immigrants are able to obtain the services of a lawyer; 

they do not have the money, and there are simply not enough immigration lawyers. 

Despite the fact that the journey through Central America and Mexico is incredibly 

dangerous and many are robbed, raped, or killed on the way, and that Central Americans 

know that they are likely to be deported and that life in the US is no picnic, people keep 

coming. One quote I've heard about this situation: "When your house is on fire, you get 


4. The US government bears a lot of responsibility for the poverty and violence in 

Central America. So many of us spent time in El Salvador during the Civil War, and we 

remember when Reagan's Secretary of State Al Haig called it "America's backyard." The 

US has treated this region as its backyard for a hundred years. One example would be 

the CIA coup which ousted democratically-elected President Jacobo Arbenz in Guatemala 

in 1954, and replaced him with the first in a series of US-backed military dictators, and 

the  list is large. Our national culture leans toward forgetting the past and moving on, 

but reality doesn't work that way. Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador (among other 

countries) were set up by Spain to exploit for cheap goods and labor, and in more recent 

decades when the poor majorities have risked their lives to rebalance the scales, the US 

has often pressed its heavy thumb on the side of the wealthy minority who are allied with 

US business interests.

Now President Trump has found a new way to use poor people in Mexico and Central 

America: as scapegoats. Without a scrap of evidence, he blames their presence in the US 

for widespread crime and global economic shifts. So now this region is no longer "our 

backyard." It's a distant land that we want nothing to do with; we'll build a wall to keep 

these people out. With the history of US involvement in the region as a background, and 

Trump's use of scapegoating in the foreground, this is a bleak picture of unfairness.

Let's share what we know about the realities of El Salvador and immigration. Let's 

fight scapegoating, and help our communities see the humanity of our brothers and 

sisters from El Salvador and other countries.

All Best wishes,

Beth Soltzberg.
Beth's children and friends in Teosinte, El Salvador

U.S-El Salvador Sister Cities

The US-El Salvador Sister Cities is a grass-roots network of U.S.

citizens and residents working in solidarity with organized rural 

communities in El Salvador. We represent 16 cities, radio stations 

an dorganizations throught the Midwest and East Coast that are 

sistered with rural communities which are among the 398 

communities that make up CRIPDES, the  Association for the 

Development of El Salvador.

We work for social change by building and defending sustainable 

communities and economies based on solidarity, dignity, and self-

determination. Our work is driven by mutual community 

accompaniment, organizing, education, advocacy, and fundraising.