California Rep. Linda Sanchez, D-Calif., an influential voice within the national Latinx community, endorsed Mayor Toni Harp for re-election Saturday amid growing national tension on immigration policy.
Rick Melita, a member of Harp’s campaign team, said the congresswoman’s endorsement gives credence to Harp being the candidate for the city’s Hispanic community and for undocumented residents. Sanchez is the vice chair of the House Democratic Caucus, which makes her the fifth-ranking Democrat and the highest-ranking Latinx Democrat in the House. She also was the chair of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus in the 114th Congress.
“Harp has spoken at national forums about sanctuary cities,” Melita said. “She’s a national spokeswoman for undocumented people.”
Sanchez is the fourth federal politician to endorse the mayor. Rep. Rosa DeLauro, who represents New Haven in the House, and Jim Clyburn, who represents South Carolina’s sixth congressional district, pledged their support for the mayor in early August. DeLauro and Sanchez serve together on the House Committee on Ways and Means. Sen. Richard Blumenthal LAW ’73, D-Conn., endorsed Harp two weeks ago.
State Rep. Juan Candelaria, who represents the 95th district in the Connecticut House of Representatives and who emceed the endorsement ceremony Saturday, said DeLauro invited Sanchez to New Haven to endorse Harp. He added that Harp and Sanchez “have a lot in common,” such as the importance they place on education and defending immigrants.
After endorsing the mayor Saturday, Sanchez knocked on doors and talked to residents in New Haven on the mayor’s behalf, according to Juan Rangel, a legislative assistant for Sanchez.
The congresswoman’s endorsement coincides with new developments on immigration policy. Several national news sources reported Sunday night that President Donald Trump may soon end Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals. DACA, an Obama-era policy, protects undocumented immigrants who came to the United States when they were 16 or younger and who have lived in the US continuously since 2007 from deportation. It also allows those whose applications are approved by immigration officials to obtain driver’s licenses, enroll in college and seek employment. About 800,000 people in the United States benefit from the policy, including a handful of students at Yale.
Harp has been unequivocal in her promotion of sanctuary policies since Trump’s election. Trump has threatened to withdraw federal funding from sanctuary cities several times since January, but Harp has upheld city policies that protect undocumented people, such as discouraging the New Haven Police Department from helping Immigration and Customs Enforcement carry out deportations and not asking detainees about their citizenship status during arrests.
Harp also visited and spoke on the behalf of Nury Chavarria, a local who took sanctuary in a New Haven church for one week to avoid deportation. She also has collaborated with New Haven Hispanic activist groups, including Unidad Latina en Acción and JUNTA for Progressive Action, to create plans to prepare for future ICE raids.
Melita told the News that Harp views upholding sanctuary policies in moral terms, but that Marcus Paca — who will challenge Harp in this month’s Democratic mayoral primary — sees it as an economic matter.
“He would have us turn on our neighbors … if the price was right,” Melita told the News.
Melita pointed to Paca’s comments in the first mayoral debate as evidence of this attitude. The New Haven Independent reported that during this debate, Paca said he supported sanctuary cities but that he would look closely at how much money the city would lose in federal funding as he moved forward with these policies.
But Paca said Melita’s accusation was “completely untrue” and that under a Paca administration, New Haven would, indeed, remain a sanctuary city.
“We are not bound by state law to allow ICE agents in, so I would not allow ICE agents in,” Paca said. “Under a Paca administration, we would remain a sanctuary city, because it’s the right thing to do.”
Paca explained that he would differ from the mayor only in his approach to the sanctuary issue. He explained that he would look more closely at whether or not the city would lose money because of sanctuary policies so that he could plan around gaps in funding. But Paca said it was “not likely” that the city would lose federal funding.
The Democratic mayoral primary will take place on Sept. 12.
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