Three strikes for mayor… sanctuary now

Mayor Greg Fischer is disingenuous.

He claims to support our immigrant population but refused to declare Louisville a sanctuary city after President Trump was elected and then again following the revocation of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, or DACA.

So now we learn that Louisville police have been assisting Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents in their work hunting down undocumented citizens.

Despite Fischer’s insistence that city police do not enforce immigration laws, a Kentucky Center for Investigative Reporting article [see page 10] shows that is not exactly the case. The story’s KYCIR headline was: “Louisville Police Don’t Enforce Immigration — But Help The Feds Do It.”

Three strikes for the mayor.

It is time for Fischer to declare the city a sanctuary and end police involvement with ICE. That would help DACA youth and other undocumented people in our community.

And it would be concrete action behind his claim that Louisville is a “Compassionate City.”

Maybe Fischer did not know about the cooperation between the police and ICE, but he should have, especially when he has made a point of explaining the difference between city police and immigration authorities.

In an exuberant speech at the Muhammad Ali Center after Trump took office in January, Fischer said, “LMPD does not have the authority to enforce federal immigration laws. And LMPD does not arrest people on the basis of their immigration status.”

“Part of reaching that full potential is being safe and secure in your home and community. That’s why LMPD is focused on public safety, and why we will not divert resources from that vital work to anything that will not make our city safer.”

“Compassion is one of our city values. And in Louisville, we define compassion as having respect for each and every person so they can reach their full human potential,” Fischer said.

After the KYCIR story broke, Fischer reiterated those points, but he said of the police: “It does provide assistance to federal agents when there is the potential for danger, when federal agents detain people who have local warrants for their arrest, or when a crime is occurring.” He said LMPD has served as a “back-up for ICE officials or to simply knock on a door to help clear a house.”

And he wants the police chief to clarify those boundaries and roles for when ICE asks for assistance.

Why? Because he must know what has been happening is wrong.

“I recognize that this matter may cause confusion and disappointment in our foreign-born community,” he said in the statement, adding that the cases KYCIR uncovered “divert LMPD resources and erode the trust that our city has worked to build with our immigrant and foreign-born community and to create a welcoming, global city of compassion.”

“Our process for these calls needs clarity so we continue to be a welcoming city, and we will provide that clarity as soon as possible,” he said.

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Fischer said he has asked for the head of his “globalization efforts,” Bryan Warren, to speak with immigrant leaders regarding the story and to request recommendations.

All are just more words from the mayor.

What about this word? Sanctuary.

Fischer has been asked many times by faith leaders, activist groups and citizens to declare Louisville a sanctuary city. He’s continued to refuse to do this.

Declaring a city a sanctuary does not change federal laws. But it also is not just symbolic. Specific policy changes, under the umbrella of sanctuary, can truly protect vulnerable immigrant populations. This is what is being requested, and it is within the power of Fischer to take these steps.

First and foremost: End police assistance to ICE.

“Mijente is going to oppose anything the mayor says on this issue unless it is substantive policy. The time to talk is over. Now, it’s action time,” said Jesus Ibañez, a spokesperson for Latino activism group Mijente.

“This is the cause of a lot of mistrust in the community, which already doesn’t trust government officials,” said Ibañez. “Another thing sanctuary policy can do is to end ICE detainers, unless there is a judicial warrant. What ICE usually does is sends out administrative warrants. It’s the agency warrant and has no legal weight.”

These detainers ask police to fill out a form that allows ICE to take custody of individuals when he or she is released from the local jail. The federal government claims it is to protect the U.S. from dangerous individuals. But not all people who are arrested are guilty or dangerous. This is just another ploy by the federal government to abuse the relationship with local law enforcement.

To be fair, we as a community need to take responsibility. We need to pressure the mayor and Metro Council to do more to protect vulnerable immigrant populations from federal interference.

Ibañez said people who want to help should donate to local nonprofits, such as La Casita. “La Casita provides invaluable service to the community from shelter to clothing to food to providing people with escorts to court.”

And then there might be a time when you risk even more.

“Some people might have to hide undocumented immigrants in their homes,” he said. “That’s something that they should think long and hard about. It’s not easy to do, and it takes a lot of commitment. But if people want to be true accomplices, now is the time to step up and do something like that.”

It is outrageous to think that this might be the reality — and necessity — in 2017 in the United States, a country that trumpets its notions of freedom for the “huddled masses yearning to breathe free.”

Louisville’s community, if it is to live up to its compassionate claim, needs to pressure Fischer and the Metro Council to declare Louisville a sanctuary city. And it must implore LMPD to mind its own business. •

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