Putting more than 90 Cities across the United States to shame New Haven, Connecticut, recently offered the city’s 10,000 to 15,000 undocumented immigrants legal identification cards that would allow them to open bank accounts, get library cards and access other services that would otherwise been closed and unavailable to them. This progressive, sane and sensible policy is a ray of hope is in stark contrast to those cities that now have draconian immigration laws or proposals that have made life unbearable for America’s reported 12 million undocumented immigrants.
“I applaud this move by New Haven and I’m sure that other cities will take a page out of their book. I certainly hope that we in New York City can offer this humane and practical relief to our undocumented. This would help bring them out of the shadows. I congratulate Mayor John DeStafano on such a bold and progressive move and the local City Council for supporting him by passing this piece of legislation,” said Councilman Dr. Kendall Stewart, Chair, Immigration Committee of New York’s City Council.
New Haven, a city of approximately 150,000 residents, has an estimated undocumented population of somewhere in the region of 10,000 and Mayor DeStafano said that "the simple straightforward purpose here is to build a stronger community. You can't police a community of people who won't talk to our cops."
Riddled by xenophobia cities across the United States have reacted to the most vulnerable population in the United States as if all of its members were criminals deserving of incarceration. Some Republican commentators have even put the undocumented in the realm of potential terrorists and akin to criminals like rapists and murderers. In this dangerous climate opportunistic local politicians have been pandering to their voter base and seeking to enact the most repressive and inhuman local laws by fear-mongering and rabblerousing.
Apocalyptic statements by politicians who deliberately stoke the fire of local insecurities by obliquely equating undocumented immigration with terrorism have done a great job of demonizing a defenseless population. Tough-talking mayors, Senators and Congressman calculate that by framing the immigration debate around the terrorism of 9-11 they win local votes because this deflects their chronic shortcoming and failures from public scrutiny. And the undocumented have very few voices that come out in their defense so politically this is a gift to political opportunism.
They have been able to do that because of the failure of the United States Congress to pass meaningful immigration reform laws leaving the issue confused and in political limbo. States have therefore usurped the right of the federal government to deal with immigration by passing laws tailor-made to make life increasingly difficult for the undocumented as the mainstream media and right-wing elements demonize the undocumented offering quasi-legal cover for reactionary, unjust and anti-people laws.
“Congress’s dithering and procrastination has resulted in making the immigration issue murky, confused and uncertain. By failing to pass comprehensive immigration reform laws the Congress has removed itself from the debate for the time being and have allowed states to assert their rights to pass laws that are in their interests. This is why we are seeing such dangerous immigration laws and proposals being enacted across the nation,” Councilman Stewart said.
In many states, in Philadelphia, for example, draconian anti-immigrant laws have forced landlords to not rent to the undocumented, is penalizing businesses that employ them by enforcing employer sanctions; hospitals are being pressured to report the undocumented who use emergency rooms as clinics, even to deny them care, and more ominously the undocumented are now being asked to prove their immigration status by providing valid social security numbers to enroll children in public schools and to gain access to any entitlement programs.
The mayor of New Haven said the federal government had failed to address immigration-related issues, forcing cities to find ways to manage them. New Haven is simply acknowledging the people who already live there, he said.