City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito encouraged leaders of dozens of sanctuary cities to be President Trump’s “worst nightmare” — urging defiance just as Attorney General Jeff Sessions said the feds would move forward with an effort to crack down on the cities.
Reps from more than 30 cities around the country that limit their cooperation with immigration enforcement gathered in Manhattan Monday.
“I’m hoping we are going to become this administration’s worst nightmare,” Mark-Viverito told the group.
Just as the conference was kicking off, Sessions showed up at the White House press briefing to reiterate Trump’s threats to take back Justice Department grants from sanctuary cities, demanding that the jurisdictions reverse course.
“This is nothing new in terms of the threats that this federal administration has been making, but it really is really sad that the security of our city, the security of our country would be put at stake to meet a campaign promise to a dwindling base,” Mark-Viverito told reporters.
New York refuses to comply with most requests from Immigrations and Customs Enforcement to detain people so they can be deported, and orders its police not to participate in immigration enforcement. Officials also announced last week they would bar ICE agents from public school buildings.
“Everything we’re doing is legal. And it is illegal for the federal government to withdraw funds in a punitive fashion,” the speaker said. “Our laws are legal. We have a right as a municipality to enact them. And we will defend them — even if that means a lawsuit.”
Lourdes Rosado, head of the civil rights bureau for state Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, said Trump and Sessions have falsely peddled the claim that sanctuary cities are breaking the law.
“What we’re doing is legal. What they’re doing is not,” she said.
The attorney general’s office has issued guidelines on how cities and towns can enact sanctuary policies without running afoul of the law, which 10 cities in New York have implemented.
“They can’t make us spend money to do their dirty work, essentially. They can’t force us,” Rosado said.
There’s no legal definition of what makes a place a sanctuary city, but some 300 jurisdictions around the country have various policies meant to shield immigrants.
Denver City Councilman Paul Lopez said he’s pushing a bill to designate the Colorado city as a sanctuary, which the mayor has resisted.
“The administration on the executive side of our city is a little timid of doing that because it will be, quote unquote, painting a big red target on our backs. How real is that red target?” he said.
Even as Denver Mayor Michael Hancock has resisted the label, Sessions singled out the city for the release of a Mexican immigrant in the country illegally who was later charged with murder.
Philadelphia City Councilwoman Helen Gym said her city has reversed five decades of population decline, largely by drawing immigrants.
“This is not about just the undocumented. This is about the future of Philadelphia,” she said.
Despite the high-profile fight over city policies, Mark-Viverito acknowledged they could only go so far in stopping deportations.
“We cannot protect everybody, and I’ve been very honest,” she said. “We’re going to fight like hell, but we have to be realistic.”
Source : http://www.nydailynews.com/news/politics/nyc-pol-urges-sanctuary-cities-trump-worst-nightmare-article-1.3010841