By Javier M. Gonzales
February 1, 2017

With two pen strokes, and just days into his administration, President Donald Trump has already signed two executive orders signaling his intent to be the most immigrant-hostile president in more than a generation.

Now, some may think the true impact of Trump’s policies will be felt in far-off lands. And it’s true: The lives of many who dreamed of coming to this country have been deeply disrupted.

But if you are a mayor like me, you know that many of the hardest hit communities will be in cities and towns all over this country. Places like Santa Fe, with the highest proportion of new immigrants in its region and a vibrant culture and thriving economy, are a living testament to the rewards a community can reap if it opens its doors.

For 400 years, Santa Fe has seen the benefit of being a welcoming community. Immigrants in our city are business owners, children attending our schools, artists contributing to our culture and economy, veterans who served our country in uniform, and hard-working people on whom local businesses rely.

Like other cities, we’ve built the dream of our community as much on the contributions of immigrants as those of the natural-born citizens with whom they work, hand in hand. So when the president attacks them, he is attacking all of us.

We’ve heard all the arguments, but here are the facts. Immigrants aren’t criminals, and refugees aren’t terrorists. As immigration rose for nearly 25 years after 1990, violent crime dropped almost 50%, and there is no evidence that sanctuary cities have higher crime rates. And not one of the terrorist attacks on this country since 9/11 has been carried out by a refugee.

Immigrants and refugees alike put it all on the line to live the American dream. Santa Fe has seen generation after generation grab hold of the opportunity to do better by their children, exemplifying hard work, fairness, love for equality, and belief in diversity as a strength. These are the last people we should be turning away.

And while the definition of a sanctuary city is an unsettled debate nationwide, in Santa Fe it’s simple and principled: We don’t discriminate against people based on immigration status, and we don’t use scarce local police resources to do federal immigration authorities’ jobs.

That doesn’t mean we’re a safe haven for violent criminals. Communities are safer when they focus police department time on preventing crime and catching those who break the law. When a federal court issues a criminal judicial warrant, we regularly work with federal officials to enforce it, regardless of the individual’s immigration status.

What we don’t do is enforce what are known as Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) administrative warrants. This constitutionally questionable practice is essentially an informal request from ICE, asking local police to step in when there’s someone they’d like to pick up but would rather not use their own resources to do so.

Even if the orders are legal, our policies don’t violate any of the federal laws cited in Trump’s executive order threatening sanctuary cities. But then again, legality isn’t really the point.

 

President Trump, the classic schoolyard bully, wants to force us to make a choice: Stand up for who we are and what we believe in, or give in, out of fear of lost revenue in one case, or terrorism in the other. Well, that’s an easy one for Santa Fe. We won’t turn against one another. We won’t forget or abandon the values and ideals that we believe in. We won’t shut out whole groups of people just because someone tells us we should be afraid.

As one of our country’s first openly gay Hispanic mayors, I know how it feels to be shut out because of who you are. But I also know that America is at its strongest when we welcome the world, when we celebrate its diversity, and when we choose hope over fear.

No executive order can force a community to change its values. Now, when we face the hardest test, is the time to stand up for our fundamental beliefs, not depart from them.

So, let me take this opportunity to tell the world, on behalf of my city and, I suspect, a lot of other cities in America: It doesn’t matter if you are a Muslim, Christian, or Jew, have lived here for five generations or are undocumented, are gay or straight, white, black, or brown. If you love peace and dream of a better life, you are welcome in Santa Fe, no matter what this president may say.

Javier M. Gonzales is the mayor of Santa Fe, New Mexico.

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