The Problems & Progressive Local Solutions
Immigrants in our communities are under attack. The federal government has weaponized immigration enforcement agencies into a force with minimal respect of the law, constitution, or the fabric of our communities. Progressive cities and counties need to protect immigrants in their communities’ regardless of their citizenship status. Beyond protecting immigrants local governments need to work towards promoting and ensuring their economic and social integration.
To accomplish these goals progressive governments are ending collaboration with federal immigration authorities, strengthening the rights of immigrant communities, and investing in their economic future.
Available Local Levers & Targets of Reforms
While immigration law is largely under federal authority there is still much local governments can do to protect the rights of immigrants and to invest their futures. Local governments, executives, law enforcement, and judicial administrations can adopt sanctuary city policies which ensure local law enforcement efforts are not undermined by collaboration with federal ICE authorities. Collaboration with ICE makes immigrant communities scared to cooperate with local authorities and can lead to rises in crime.
Beyond ending collaboration with federal authorities city and county governments can take proactive action to strengthen the rights and economic well being of immigrants. Governments can promote economic integration through community outreach and expanding banking access in immigrant neighborhoods. In expanding the rights of immigrant communities local governments can pass municipal ID and drivers’ license laws, expand legal services, ensuring protected access to city services, and expand education opportunities for immigrants.
Current Reforms & Tools to Fight for Them
The first step for progressive governments looking to promote immigrant communities is ensuring their protection. Collaborating with federal authorities who are terrorizing our communities promotes distrust in immigrant populations leading to decreased collaboration with local authorities. This undermines community policing efforts often leading to increased crime as this Immigrant Policy Center report shows. In contrast, CAP and NILC found cities with sanctuary policies were better at fighting crime and saw greater economic growth as immigrant populations found more opportunity.
Communities looking to protect immigrants should begin with the Immigrant Legal Resource Center’s guide to local options for protecting immigrants as well as NELP’s overview to protecting low wage immigrant workers. ProGov21 has a large number of resources to help craft a sanctuary cities policy including this SiX Action guide to sanctuary cities and providing a right to counsel for immigrants as well as ILRC and United We Dream’s guide to ending local collaboration with ICE.
ProGov21 also has numerous exemplary laws and orders ending collaboration with ICE including the County of Santa Cruz, King Count, WA, Bernalillo County, NM, Cook County, IL, as well as King County, Washington’s ban on ICE in their courts. The Seattle sanctuary executive order creates a mayoral cabinet to ensure compliance and interagency coordination of the city’s sanctuary city ordinance. ILRC also has useful guides for law enforcement on utilizing the U Visa Program which provides visas to undocumented immigrants who are assisting law enforcement cases and a guide to California Public Defenders’ efforts to support noncitizen legal defense.
In addition to protecting immigrant communities progressive governments should work towards economic integration of these communities. The Fiscal Policy Institute found immigrants provided a huge economic benefit for the economies in the 25 largest metro areas in the country. ProGov21 has useful guides on generating these benefits including Welcoming America guide to generating economic opportunity and entrepreneurship for immigrant communities, CAP’s guide for local communities for promoting immigrant integration, and BankOn’s playbook for local banking access.
Taking it to the Next Level
Cities at the cutting edge of progressive immigration are proactively granting immigrant rights and social equality. Key to this effort is passing a municipal ID law. Municipal IDs can count as valid ID for securing all city services as well as housing. The Center for Popular Democracy has created this useful overview of creating a successful municipal ID program. ProGov21 also has sample municipal ID laws such as this one from New Haven, CT. Going beyond the ID progressive local governments, where possible, can also provide immigrants with drivers’ licenses following this useful SiX Action guide.
Passing a municipal ID is part of a larger program of ensuring immigrant communities have equal access to cities services. An important first step is having a language access policy such as these from New York City and Saint Paul, MN. Additionally, cities can pass an ordinance creating a legally protected right to city services such as these laws from Hartford, CT and Madison, WI. In terms of healthcare the UC Berkeley Labor Center’s review of attempts to provide immigrants health care in California provides a useful guide. When providing higher education for immigrants cities can look to SiX Action’s guide to local Dreamer Policies. Finally, Seattle’s report on creating voting and civic participation opportunities for the city’s immigrant communities is a useful example.
Helpers & Allies
- Immigrant Legal Resource Center is a valuable resource providing research, examples, and technical assistance for communities looking to protect their immigrant communities.
- Immigrant Policy Center is the research and policy arm of the American Immigration Council.
- National Immigration Law Center engages in policy analysis, litigation, education, and advocacy around immigration issues.
- SiX Action is the state level progressive policy database which has useful research and example laws on immigration policy.
- Center for American Progress is a D.C. based think tank which has conducted important research on the economic and social impacts of immigration.
- National Employment Labor Project has useful research and model laws for protecting immigrant workers.
- Center for Popular Democracy has resources for protecting and encouraging the democratic rights of immigrants.