Monday, February 12, 2018

What Can Cities Do About Immigration

http://www.citylab.com; January 23, 2018


Hello Everyone:

Welcome to a fresh week on the blog, coming to you from the usual hideout.  The Winter Olympics, from PyeongChang, South Korea, are upon us.  The Winter Games opened with all the appropriate pomp and ceremony, including crowd favorite Pita Taufatofua, the shirtless oiled up Tongan flag bearer.  The big news was North and South Korea walking in together, under one flag.  Definitely a moment in history.  Even Vice President Mike Pence's sour expression and feeble attempt at protest could not dampen the excitement of the moment.  Blogger is happy to report that the United States has won medals in Team Figure Skating, Luge (a first), and Snowboarding. Go Team 

Second, Mr. Donald Trump's big beautiful infrastructure plan has finally been released into the atmosphere.  As promised, it seeks to turn $200 billion, doled out in the form of grants to the states, into $1.5 trillion in new construction.  The administration is hoping the announcement of this intiative will divert attention away from the fact that over the weekend, two of Mr. Trump's closet aides, Rob Porter and David Sorenson, were forced to resign in disgrace over allegations of domestic violence.  His aide, former staff secretary Rob Porter, was one of about thirty people working in the White House without security clearance.  Apparently, Chief of Staff John Kelly knew about it, yet gave Mr. Porter more responsibility.  For what purpose is anyone's guess but suffice it to say, this should never have happened.  Of course never one to pass a good moment to tweet, Mr. Trump took to Twitter to defend Mr. Porter, saying he believed in his innocence, wishing him well, and lamented how he was never going to recover from these accusations.  Domestic violence is a serious felony crime that often goes unreported because of men like Mr. Trump who refuse to believe the individuals who report them.  This should never ever be the case.  Too often, reports of domestic violence get swept aside, considered a private matter.  No they are not.  Alright, on to today's subject: Immigration reform.

One the biggest priorities in the Trump administration is reducing immigration by any and all means necessary, even it means shutting down the federal government.  While the nation tries to make sense (rollcall.com; date accessed Feb. 12, 2018) of all the confusing messages (msnbc.com; Jan. 11, 2018;  date accessed Feb. 12, 2018)  coming from the White House; Congress madly dashes to create a reform agenda (cnn.com; Jan. 17, 2018; date accessed Feb. 12, 2018) that will engender bipartisan support.  Taking a look at the national conversation on immigration, it is not too difficult to sense anger, dysfunction, and basic disagreement over what it means to an American ( newyorker.com; Jan. 20, 2018; date accessed Feb. 12, 2018)

Juliana Kerr offers a glimmer of light at the end of the immigration reform tunnel in her CityLab article "Want Immigration Reform? Look to Cities," "...at the local level, things look quite different: Cities across the country are consistently, decisively, and increasingly leading with polices of migrant inclusion and integration."

Here is a real fact, "There are over 244 million migrants [weforum.org; Oct. 25, 2017; date accessed Feb.12, 2018] today, contributing 9.4 percent of global GDP."  Since most of the immigrants live in metropolitan (brookings.edu; Dec. 1, 2015; date accessed Feb. 12, 2018) regions, cities large and small acknowledge their stake in the ongoing debate and are creating polices to promote the social and economic inclusion of migrants and refugees.  The Chicago Council on Global Affairs, which Ms. Kerr is the director of the global cities and immigration, has studied the economic impact of immigration for over 10 years and offers nonpartisan solutions to the contemporary realities and analyzes how cities can remain competitive in the global economy.  When it comes to immigration, two key issues intersect.

Juliana Kerr writes, "While we prepare for the next federal-level showdown over immigration policy, cities can institute practical initiatives, may of which which were recently highlighted at the 2017 National Immigration Integration Conference [niic2017.org; date accessed Feb. 12, 2018]."  Here several way to approach the issue writhing and without city limits.

"Create a mayor's office for immigrant affairs or new Americans"

A mayor's office for immigrant affairs would be tasked with providing a variety of services in support of immigrant integration.  These service would include financial literacy, citizenship workshops, and access to Englingh language classes.  New York City (www1.nyc.gov; date accessed Feb. 12, 2018) established The Mayor's Office of Immigrant Affairs in 1984 however, between 2008 and 2015, there has been marked increase (welcomingamerica.org; date accessed Feb. 12, 2018) in the number of similar offices opening up in cities such as Atlanta (atlanta.gov; date accessed Feb. 12, 2018); Chicago (cityofchicago.org; date accessed Feb. 12, 2018); Nashville (nashville.gov; date accessed Feb. 12, 2018); and Seattle (seattle.gov; date accessed Feb. 12, 2018).  This has expanded to cities such as Anchorage, Alaska; Fargo, North Dakota, Grand Rapids, Michigan; and Tulsa, Oklahoma.  These cities were chosen for the New American Economy's Gateways for Growth (newamericaneconomy.org; Sept. 12, 2017; date accessed Feb. 12, 2018) awards, which "which provides matching grants and technical assistance to develop strategic plans for immigrant communities."

"Reassert municipal law enforcement's commitment to public safety"

Contrary to what Mr. Trump and his administration says, the sanctuary city movement (americanprogress.org; Jan. 26, 2017; date accessed Feb. 12, 2018) does not provide immunity to any and all undocumented immigrants.  Once again, it does not: rather it "...reasserts that cites will not use limited local enforcement resources to enforce federal immigration laws."  This was the rationale behind Los Angeles Mayor Eric J. Garcetti's excutive directive "Standing with Immigrants: A City of Safety, Refuge, and Opportunity for All (lamayor.org March 21, 2017; date accessed Feb. 12, 2018).  Mayor Garcetti's executive directive was designed to "enhance public safety for all residents."  In Los Angeles, police officers are not allowed to arrest a person solely based on their immigration status, because,

...when people feel confident that they can come forward as a victim or a witness to crime, irrespective of immigration status, the police department's ability to protect and serve all is enhanced.

"Develop programs to support undocumented residents"

The cities of Seattle (seattletimes.com; April 5, 2017; date accessed Feb. 12, 2018), Washington D.C. (washingtonpost.com; Jan. 9, 2017; date accessed Feb. 12, 2018), and Los Angeles (dailynews.com; June 21, 2017; date accessed Feb. 12, 2018) have established defense funds (washingtonpost.com; Jan. 9, 2017) to cover legal fees facing deportation.  Juliana Kerr writes, "The late San Francisco Mayor  Ed Lee non ounces the city would cover [sanfrancisco.cbslocal.com; Sept. 21, 2017 date accessed Feb. 12, 2018] the DACA renewal application fees for residents. Chicago offers the Star Scholarship [ccc.edu; date accessed Feb. 12, 2018]--free education at City Colleges of Chicago--to all who qualify, regardless of immigration status."

"Implement municipal ID programs"

A municipal identity card provides everyone (populardemocracy.org; date accessed Feb. 12, 2018)--regardless of citizenship status--with access to important benefits like a library card, pre-paid debit cards, and public transportation.  Chicago launched its "CityKey" (chicago.suntimes.com; Dec. 14, 2017; date accessed Feb. 12, 2018) this past December, which began as an identity card to help undocumented immigrant feel part of the city.

"Explore strategic priorities with city council members"

There are several other strategies in process that more cities can take on, test, and adapt it to meet their needs.  Ms. Kerr reports, "Salt Lake City, for example, is looking into the possibility of offering a tax credit to companies who provide ESL [English as a Second Language] to employees."  In the Rust Belt city of Akron, Ohio, immigrants are a demographic life saver (thechicagocouncil.org; March 23, 2017;  date accessed Feb. 12, 2018) as the city's native-born population continues to dwindle; "the city recently released a 'strategic welcome plan' [cleveland.com; Oct. 18, 2017; date accessed Feb. 12, 2018] to be a more welcoming place in an era of federal hostility."

"Join coalitions for collective action"

Some meaningful actions go beyond a city's limits.  One example is Cities for Action (citiesforaction.us; date accessed Feb. 12, 2018), a coalition of 150 American mayors.  An organization like CFA can enhance individual efforts and provide a sharing platform for best practices and add their name to a group statements such as the letter that demanded the administration continue Temporary Protection Status for Salvadoran in the U.S. (Ibid).  Another example is the Welcoming America (welcomingamerica.org; date accessed Feb. 12, 2018) network, a non-profit agency founded in 2009, to provide support to inclusive communities.

"Collaborate with suburban leaders"

This is crucial to bridging the urban-suburban divide around the subject of immigration (thechicagocouncil.org; Dec. 5, 2016).  Ms. Kerr writes, "The 2016 Chicago Council Survey highlighted this phenomenon, with outer-ring suburban residents 15 percentage points more likely to support deportation and reject a path to citizenship."  To close the gap, some urban mayors, as in Boston and the Chicago Metropolitan Mayors Caucus (mayorscaucus.org; date accessed Feb. 12, 2018) have begu meeting with community leaders to develop a regional approach toward immigration.

"Push for change at the state level"

Goes without saying, change in immigration strategies is also in the best interest of a state.  Civic leaders are working with state officials to enact state-level laws (ncsl.org; date accessed Feb. 12, 2018such as offering drivers' licenses and offer in-state tuition to undocumented immigrants (California does this).  Illinois Governor Bruce Rauner followed Chicago's lead and signed the Trust Act in August 2017 (chicago.cbslocal.com; Aug. 28, 2017; date accessed Feb. 12, 2018.

"Demand a seat at the global table"

As cities and metropolitan regions absorb more migrants and refugees, they can no longer be ignored by internal agencies.  Juliana Kerr reports, "Many cities signed a petition requesting a role [foreignpolicy.com; Dec. 5, 2017; date accessed Feb. 12, 2018] in the UN's Global Compact on MIgration."  Mayors representing New York City, Chicago, Atlanta, and Philadelphia have insisted "that it is imperative that municipalities be included in global cooperation, even if the country has withdrawn [theguardian.com; Dec. 3, 2017; date accessed Feb. 12, 2018] national-level engagement."  The cities must work aggressively and consistently to be active participants.

Absolutely there are plenty of things cities cannot do to aid immigrants and refugees: they may not be able to increase the H1-B (temporary worker) visa quotas, grant legal status to undocumented immigrants, or expand TPS.  However, with innovative municipal policies and collective action, they can build the necessary momentum and create norms for badly needed reforms.  While the Trump administration continues to plod its way through how to proceed, cities need to keep moving forward as champions of inclusion and integration.