It’s telling that on the same day that Aurora boasted having landed the state’s new El Salvador Consulate — a testament to the city’s diverse and global reach — six council members later in the day would sully the victory and the city with a misguided demand that succumbs to fear and panders to xenophobia.
The Aurora City Council embarrassed itself and all of Aurora Monday night by approving 6-4 a useless resolution insisting that Aurora is not a so-called sanctuary city.
At best, it was a forewarned act of ignorance and naiveté. At worst it was a flagrant act of cowardice and pandering to a devolving and hateful group of Americans emboldened by a sympathetic president flailing in Washington.
The resolution states that Aurora complies with federal immigration police and laws, especially U.S.C 1373 in Title 8, which prohibits states and cities from enacting laws that prohibit local officials from communicating with the federal government. It’s that law that the Trump Administration is unsuccessfully trying to use against cities such as San Francisco and New York City, which have flagrantly worked to thwart federal immigration agents from forcing local police to act as immigration officers.
Aurora has never done anything like that. But Aurora has made it clear that its police force are not immigration officers. They’ve done that to protect all of the public. By assuring everyone that Aurora’s cops don’t ask about citizenship, they ensure that illegal immigrants don’t leave the scene of accidents and crimes. They ensure that criminals don’t seek out and prey on illegal immigrants, knowing they won’t call police. They know that children and women will report abuse to police, knowing that their immigration status isn’t an issue, but stopping and punishing their victimizer is a big issue. Legal immigrants know that they don’t have to be harassed by police or others in the community who profile them because they are minorities or speak little English or with a foreign accent.
There are myriad good reasons why Aurora and similar communities ensure that its police do no enforce federal immigration laws.
But council members Bob Roth, Francoise Bergan, Brad Pierce, Sally Mounier, Angela Lawson and Renie Peterson talked Monday about being afraid that the Trump administration, which has showed no interest in Aurora’s policy on immigration, would turn against our community and try to withhold federal funds, like it has tried to do unsuccessfully with cities like San Francisco.
There were no good reasons to pass this resolution at all, and especially right now.
For those city lawmakers who rationalized their votes based on fear, they fail to realize how chilling their cowardice was in light of what’s at stake. This is an administration under attack from the courts for trying to ban Muslims from entering the country. The administration is led by a president who seriously and repeatedly talked about identifying Muslim citizens with a registry. While President Donald Trump is currently is under fire from both parties for trying to thwart an investigation into possible collusion between his campaign and Russian enemies, his administration is also consumed with trying to defend a dangerous release of classified secrets to Russian diplomats.
Trying to pander to his xenophobic and bigoted base by paying attention to illegal immigration is the least of Trump’s concerns these days.
This is an increasingly dangerous and unpredictable president who has made clear he has no respect for government institutions and rights that protect and honor American diversity, which is a noted strength and hallmark of Aurora.
While so much of the country suffers deeply from racism and xenophobia, Aurora has long been a shining example of what the American cultural and racial melting pot can be. This city not only attracts like-minded residents, it has capitalized on its welcoming culture by landing commercial interests, which now may be put at risk by this misguided move.
Despite proponents’ arguments, this resolution not only undermines what Aurora actually is, it endangers it.
All of Aurora suffers when officials like these six lawmakers cower in fear from Trump and his administration. All of the region suffers when leaders believe they must publicly defend the city’s lawful policies against allegations from bigoted social media trolls and disgraced cable TV personalities.
This resolution does nothing to protect the city, federal funds or anyone. What it does is send a clear message that a thin majority of the Aurora City Council is afraid of the Trump Administration, and immigrants should be, too. It sends the chilling effect into the heart of the city’s large legal and illegal immigrant community that they can’t trust city leaders and police, which is the exact opposite of what Aurora police have worked so hard and so successfully to prevent.
For those council members who naively thought they were doing something right, they can call up this imprudent measure at the next council meeting and overturn it. For those council members who approved this resolution and see it as effective immigration policy, you do not represent the vast Aurora population, nor its police force.
It is unforgivable that Congress has been unable to enact immigration laws and policies to rectify this country’s long-standing and complex immigration problems. But it’s even more unforgivable that at a time when all of Aurora is seeking assurance from local, state and congressional leaders that they will stand firm against inhumane round-ups, Muslim bans and registries or any other executive orders that legitimize policies of hate or xenophobia, these city council members either caved into fear or pandered to Trump and his cause.