America is not a welcoming nation today. Any list of things to celebrate must grapple with this fact. Our country has elected a president who is trying to round up undocumented immigrants and bar refugees from haven. We are complicit in turning the United States into a callous, greedy bully.
So it matters that the leaders of Portland have spoken in union, and said no.
"We will not be complicit in the deportation of our neighbors," Mayor Ted Wheeler said on Jan. 25, after President Donald Trump threatened to pull federal grant funding from "sanctuary cities" that harbor undocumented immigrants. "We will not compromise our values as a city or as Americans and will resist these policies." Within hours, the Multnomah County chairwoman, county sheriff and city police chief echoed that defiance.
The practical meaning of that stand: Local law enforcement won't help federal immigration agents find and deport immigrants. Our police won't hold people until agents can arrest them, and they won't tip off U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement where immigrants are.
That righteous rhetoric isn't so easily accomplished. As WW reported last month, ICE is acting more aggressively—in at least one instance with the alleged aid of a sheriff's deputy. And our values are hard to square with the fact that Latino families—the majority of undocumented immigrants in Portland—can't afford the monthly rent here.
But even half measures matter. They matter to the immigrant families seeking health care and access to the courts. They matter when the American Civil Liberties Union of Oregon files suit against the White House to let refugees land at Portland International Airport. And they matter when our congressional delegation fights for a 4-month-old Iranian girl to be allowed to enter the country for heart surgery at Oregon Health & Science University.
These efforts are a reason to be proud of our city. They say we refuse to sell our soul.
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