An online petition calling for city government to defend New Haven’s status as a sanctuary city has received nearly 1,200 signatures as of Monday night.
Sanctuary cities such as New Haven limit contact between the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency and local law enforcement to prevent undocumented residents from being deported for nonviolent crimes. The petition, which calls for city officials to sign an open letter affirming New Haven’s stance, was started by Ward 26 Alder Darryl Brackeen Jr. late Thursday night in response to fears that policies proposed by President-elect Donald Trump could threaten the safety of undocumented New Haven residents.
“I have been approached by many friends and constituents from across the city who have grown to be fearful of the many initiatives that President-elect Trump promised … to enact in his first 100 days,” Brackeen said.
He explained that the petition does not call for immediate legislative action, but is intended to support efforts New Haven has made to welcome refugees and protect undocumented residents. He cited, for example, city identification cards issued in 2007 that give New Haven residents without citizenship access to government services and financial institutions. New Haven was the first city in the country to issue this type of identification.
There have already been attempts to cut federal funding to sanctuary cities, Brackeen said, and these efforts may ramp up under a Republican-run federal government. Although he expressed optimism that Connecticut’s congressional representatives would prevent such measures, he said he hopes the petition and open letter will set a precedent and ensure New Haven continues to protect all of its residents.
The open letter is still being drafted, according to Brackeen. He said discussions with Mayor Toni Harp’s office have started and he believes city representatives will support the initiative.
“While not directly involved in the circulation of Alder Brackeen’s petition, Mayor Harp has been publicly outspoken about her intention for New Haven to remain a welcoming, accepting sanctuary for new residents of the city and this nation, so in that sense Mayor Harp does support the initiative,” city spokesman Laurence Grotheer said.
Valentina Guerrero ’19, who signed the petition, said sanctuary cities are an important part of ensuring human rights for undocumented immigrants. She added that her experience working at the Harvard Immigration and Refugee Clinical Program this summer, where she assisted undocumented immigrants applying for refugee status or asylum in the United States, helped her understand the importance of sanctuary cities as places of refuge.
Elias Mastakouris ’20, Brackeen’s chief of staff, said he believes sanctuary cities across the country will face an “existential threat” in the wake of Trump’s election. He added that Brackeen’s initiative will send a message to federal representatives that Connecticut citizens want New Haven’s status to be preserved and threats against funding for sanctuary cities to be stopped at all costs.
“[This measure will] reiterate and reaffirm the will to create sanctuary cities and ensure federal representatives defend them at all costs,” Mastakouris said. “[It will] make clear to the alders that regardless of what happens, the safety and humanity of undocumented immigrants need to be protected.”
Brackeen noted that the undocumented residents and refugees who come to the Elm City are taxpayers and productive citizens, who make communities greater by increasing their diversity, he said.
Brackeen’s sanctuary city petition is not the only one in circulation. A separate petition released last Thursday asking Yale to declare itself a sanctuary for undocumented immigrants has been signed by more than 2,400 Yale affiliates.