Cities Ready To Resist Trump Calls For Deportations

Jan 2, 2017
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President-elect Donald Trump will take the oath of office in a couple of weeks. We'll hear about some controversy surrounding his inauguration in a moment - first a story about preparations of a different kind. In many cities, local officials are getting ready to defy Trump if he carries through on a campaign pledge to deport millions of people in the U.S. illegally. NPR's Adrian Florido reports.

ADRIAN FLORIDO, BYLINE: Days after the election, New York Mayor Bill de Blasio said his city will protect immigrants should Trump try to make good on his promises.

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BILL DE BLASIO: If the federal government wants our police officers to tear immigrant families apart, we will refuse to do it.

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FLORIDO: In Los Angeles, Mayor Eric Garcetti recently announced a $10 million fund to provide lawyers for immigrants facing deportation. The money will be both public and privately donated.

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ERIC GARCETTI: We don't know how far the new administration will go when it comes to our nation's immigration policy, but we all heard the rhetoric, the dangerous rhetoric, of the election.

FLORIDO: Since winning, Donald Trump seems to have backed off of his campaign promise to deport all 11 million immigrants in the country illegally, saying he'll instead focus on immigrants with criminal records. He's also promised to punish cities that don't cooperate. Nonetheless, local leaders in at least 30 states from Arizona to Iowa to Pennsylvania have said they will resist. And their defiance is in turn emboldening grassroots activists. They sense an opportunity to push local leaders further to protect immigrants than they may have been willing to go in the past. At a Mexican restaurant in Durham, N.C. recently, a group of advocates talked strategy over breakfast.

VIRIDIANA MARTINEZ: Like, even if he's guilty, why does he have to deal with an ICE hold, you know?

FLORIDO: Among them was Viridiana Martinez, a 30-year-old who has lived illegally in this country since she was 7. A few years ago, she was among the activists lobbying for the president to protect young immigrants like her from deportation. He ultimately did that with the DACA program. Something else they've been trying to do for years is convince cities to kick immigration or ICE agents out of local jails, where police often turn people over to ICE custody.

MARTINEZ: So this is the thing is, like, how do you break up that collaboration? And, like, the only place that I can think of where that could be pulled off is here.

FLORIDO: She thinks this is possible here because of Durham's immigrant-friendly city council which even before Trump won had directed police to make immigration its last priority. Most of Durham's recent population growth is due to immigration, both legal and illegal. Steve Schewel is a councilman.

STEVE SCHEWEL: What's more important? Is it more important to use your police resources to try to stop violent crime? Or is it more important to use your resources to enforce draconian immigration rules that you don't even believe in?

FLORIDO: He says the city won't know how to respond to Trump until it's clear what the new president is actually going to do. But Schewel says the city will fight back if it has to.

SCHEWEL: We are deeply committed to our immigrant population and its safety.

FLORIDO: Local activists like Viridiana Martinez already have ideas of what they want the council to do. On the one hand, she says this momentum is exciting. On the other, she says it's frustrating that in many places it seems to have been Trump's election that finally got leaders to take a hard stance.

MARTINEZ: Because the reality is we just came out of a presidency where the administration has deported more people than any other.

FLORIDO: This is true. By the time President Obama leaves office, it appears his administration will have deported more than 3 million people. Obama often sold himself as a champion of immigrants, acting unilaterally to create the DACA program, for example. But his strategy to gain support for a broader immigration bill also included showing that he could be tough on enforcement.

CHRIS NEWMAN: And I think it is just a fact that that bet failed to pay off and also had consequences.

FLORIDO: Chris Newman of the National Day Laborer Organizing Network says one of them is that a lot of the local officials now promising to fight Trump's deportation plan did not stand up to Obama's, even though his administration did devastate many immigrant families in their cities.

NEWMAN: And he was able to, on a certain level, get away with it as long as people believed that he was also in favor of comprehensive immigration reform.

FLORIDO: Now that immigration reform seems less likely than ever, Newman says many local leaders are realizing it may be up to them to defend immigrants. Some cities like LA, New York, Chicago are leading the way. Other cities across the country say they'll develop their own plans in the weeks to come. Adrian Florido, NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.