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Dec. 3, 2007

A haven from a hostile world

by Kiera Zitelman, Online Editor-in-Chief
As the 2008 presidential campaign heats up, the candidates are scrambling to come up with positions that please voters. Immigration is a particularly thorny issue, and the candidates are struggling to prove that they are the right ones to deal with the situation. Just last month, Republican candidate Mitt Romney accused fellow candidate Rudolph Giuliani of making New York City a "sanctuary city," or a haven for undocumented workers, according to the Associated Press.

In face of this nationwide hostility toward aliens, the city of Takoma Park recently reaffirmed its own status as a sanctuary city to illegal immigrants the kind of thing that more communities must do if anyone expects to stop the antagonistic feelings toward illegal immigrants from becoming national law.
A house on Takoma Park's Maple Ave shows its support for the
city's recently reaffirmed sanctuary status. Molly Brune
A house on Takoma Park's Maple Ave shows its support for the city's recently reaffirmed sanctuary status.


A sanctuary city has something that few other towns can possess an uninhibited sense of diversity that grows with every day. A person's immigration status should not determine the basic rights to life that everyone living in America should possess. Regardless of how they arrived here, illegal immigrants are still productive members of the community, and until the national government decides how to deal with the situation, these immigrants should not be punished for participating in everyday activities.

In 1985, Takoma Park passed the City of Refuge Ordinance, which prevented officials from enforcing federal civil and criminal immigration laws. On Oct. 29, the Takoma Park council voted unanimously to reaffirm the town's "sanctuary city" status. Two weeks earlier, it rejected a request from the chief of police to execute immigration warrants for deported felons.

With such steps, Takoma Park is sending a clear message to the public, as well as to national political leaders, that "the City of Takoma Park believes that all persons should be treated equally, regardless of their citizenship or immigration status," as their City Council writes.

Legal and illegal immigrants are not differentiated in the city, and illegal aliens are allowed to use public facilities without fear of being reported to the Department of Homeland Security's Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). Takoma Park's sanctuary status is something that can, and should, be replicated by other communities.

The most important aspect of the sanctuary city status is the immigrant community's trust in local police. In Takoma Park, immigrants can report crimes without worrying that police might investigate their immigration status. This trust between citizens and police is essential to a diverse, functioning community. As the Takoma Park City Council writes, their city is "comprised of racially and ethnically diverse individuals, both native born and immigrants, whose collective cultures, backgrounds, and viewpoints join to form a rich community which prides itself on welcoming persons and families of all backgrounds and nationalities."

The council's recent decision also extends into the private, psychological lives of illegal immigrants. They will be able to go in public without fear, and will be less reluctant to seek public services. "It will make their lives easier," says Larisa Caicedo, director of Nueva Vida ("New Life" in Spanish), an organization that assists Latina women, often immigrants, with breast and cervical cancer. "It is going to help them think they will be less persecuted. It will make them feel more comfortable by going out and getting services."

Caicedo has it right by building up the trust between illegal immigrants and city employees and police officers, Takoma Park will become a safer, more diverse and all-around friendlier community. The relationship between immigrants, citizens, and city employees is the determining factor in having a healthy neighborhood. The sanctuary status extends an attitude into a law. With time, immigrants will feel as comfortable in Takoma Park as they would in their homes.

Takoma Park's sanctuary status also prohibits immigration status-based discrimination by city employees and police officers. However, the council did not specify what types of discrimination are unlawful. While physical abuse has not been an overt problem in Takoma Park, the council should be wary of possible economic and social prejudice against illegal immigrants.

The recent reaffirmation is an example for other towns, and for America as a whole. Immigrants come to America to find a better life for their children and begin their own lives anew. This fundamental American principle is rapidly dying out, but there is thankfully one place where it still resides: Takoma Park.



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  • Striking Back (View Email) on December 4, 2007 at 12:23 AM
    Takoma Park and the entire State of Maryland should be ashamed at the blatant, calculated, disregard for following the Immigration Laws of the US.

    Every time a legal citizen is killed by a drunk driving Illegal or the victim of some other heinous crime perpetrated by an illegal, I hope Takoma Park and the rest of the politicians in Maryland who have turned what once was a grand state into a haven for illegal, law breaking, aliens realize the blood of those victims is on each and every one of their hands.
  • Libertarian '08 (View Email) on December 4, 2007 at 6:45 PM
    Illegal aliens are just that, illegal, why should we provide safe haven for them? How about we make it a sanctuary for murderers? Rapists? I realize being here illegally is not as bad as that but they are barring several thousands of people trying to use the legal process from coming here, and instead, cheating their way. How about a school analogy? Why give Fs for people who cheat? Why should we discriminate people who take the effort to study and those who take the effort to look and copy? Answer: one is legal, one is illegal. Applying is legal, sneaking over isn't.

    This is also extremely poor journalism when you use the term "immigrants" to describe the people you're talking about a lot. There's nothing wrong with legal immigrants, but I have a huge problem with illegal immigrants.

    You support giving them free services, when they pay practically nothing in taxes. This is a major reason why socialized medicine will not work here. Taxes would have to be raised (France, the model in Moore's "Sicko", has a rate of practically 50% at the equivalent of $70,000 and up a year, and that's just the income tax, all other brackets are raised too, but then again they are getting better services). The people making the money would be paying for the illegal immigrants' healthcare.

    The way to solve illegal immigration is to remove the incentive for them to come. If they don't get a free ride here without following the immigration procedures, perhaps they'd actually follow the rules. All I can say to the author is, I hope you never make it into public office. There are already too many who think that breaking the law is just fine and dandy, and that we should give NON-citizens the same rights as citizens. Hello? They're here illegally.
  • The Real August Rush on December 4, 2007 at 8:24 PM
    Striking back - what can I say about your arguments that hasn't already been said about about Afghanistan -

    it's blown out and depleted.

    Seriously, your scenario is ludicrous, and as passionate as you are, just try to be legitimate. Your stance is fine, just no more accusing fantasy people of committing fantasy crimes. mk?

    Think for a minute.
  • Jon Phoenix Brookstone on December 10, 2007 at 4:18 AM
    I am absolutely ashamed at what the Libertarian wrote on this forum, first off because of the ideas it espouses, and second off, because of gross factual errors. There are no such things as illegal human beings. And its about time we as a country start realizing that and stop treating undocumented workers like filth. Because those workers, whether or not we'd like to admit, are the backbone of our economy, doing many jobs (esp. in agriculture) that Americans aren't willing to do or that companies aren't willing to hire more expensive American workers for. Second off, undocumented immigrants pay taxes, by the tune of 6-8 billion dollars a year at least if not more. In sociology, we are learning about racism throughout history. In the United States, we've moved away from biological racism ~ And last year, an 07 graduate wrote an article detailing students who faced deportation, some of whom had been separated from their own parents. Undocumented workers and their children have to live with that fear, and in thousands of cases, that reality everyday. And that hardly classifies as a "free ride." If anything, it underscores just how desperate the situation has become in many Latin American countries that people would be willing to risk that for a better life. And ironically, while Libertarian 08 calls him or herself a libertarian, NAFTA ~ supported by libertarians, libertarianism and other free market lovers/ideologies ~ caused the single largest economic disaster in Mexico since the Great Depression when its currency's value dropped in half. Since then, immigration from Mexico to the US skyrocketed. So we have a large number of undocumented workers in the US, and let's face it, we don't have the ability to deport 12 million people and even if we could our economy would collapse if we did. So knowing that we have so many undocumented workers, the question is this: Will we, as Americans and as a country, allow the creation of a severely exploited underclass? Will we allow millions of men, women, and often children, to toil in the fields for $2 an hour, then come back to a town where they're hated? Hated for their economic position, or hated for the color of their skin? Because FYI ~ given that so many undocumented workers are Hispanic, it's not a big jump from being against undocumented Hispanics to being against all Hispanics. The same way Free Blacks were still heavily discriminated against and occasionally enslaved while slavery was still in existence. And these undocumented workers ~ they're trying. And they're trying really hard. Statistics today are showing that today's mainly Hispanic immigrants (legal or otherwise) are learning English faster than any other previous wave of immigrants in American History. Statistics illustrate that the overwhelming majority have no criminal record (other than crossing the Rio Grande). And statistics illustrate that the main reason undocumented families come here is to escape dire poverty and live a higher quality of life. But statistics won't tell you about workers being intimidated, abused, or sexually assulted, and then being too afraid to go to the authorities to report these violations of their physical integrity. Statistics won't tell you about the bands of men desperately looking for work in parking lots, running up to a van when it pulls in, every one of them vying for whatever jobs at whatever below-minimum wage pay they can get. So if you perhaps see this for yourself, or learn about this through various organizations (like the UFW), you'll realize that every undocumented worker works just as hard and for the same reasons as American ones. And when a place like Takoma Park makes basic services (like cancer treatment) available to them, it says something very different and asks a different question: "You're not an illegal person. You're just as human as the rest of us. So how can make your life easier, and extend our friendship to you?" Jon Brookstone ~ signing off
  • Grow up on December 13, 2007 at 1:55 PM
    Rich white America wants to get rid of all these illegals. But are you going to pick up the landscaping tools, Libertarian, when they are "removed"? You think all these white people are going to take up these jobs? Who is going to replace the huge, and structurally important component of the work force? Yourself? Your kids?
  • re on December 18, 2007 at 10:42 PM
    "Grow up", what big thoughts you have.

    ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

    Jon, you didn't say why we need immigration laws. I mean, if we just got rid of immigration laws, no one would be an illegal immigrant.
  • Sigh on December 23, 2007 at 11:04 PM
    To "Grow up,"
    "Rich white America"?
    People other than rich, white Americans also have a voice in this country, or even an opinion and they don't all support illegal immigration.
    What about legal immigrants? They can work too. And then people won't have to enter the country ILLEGALLY. It isn't fair to those who worked hard to get into this country by abiding by the law that others can just sneak in and still be welcomed (or by Silver Spring at least).
    And to the writer, there IS a difference between a legal and illegal immigrant which should be made clear, as others before me have stated.
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