Daniel Zhao

Martin O’Malley, the former governor of Maryland and a Democratic presidential candidate in 2016, defended sanctuary cities in a speech before the Yale Political Union on Tuesday.

Sanctuary cities — a broad term that refers to cities whose policing practices do not discriminate against undocumented immigrants and whose police departments refrain from working with Immigrations and Customs Enforcement agents — have drawn the ire of President Donald Trump throughout his time in office. Trump has threatened several times to withdraw federal funding from cities that implement sanctuary policies, sending the mayors of many of America’s sanctuary cities, including New Haven Mayor Toni Harp, scrambling to make plans to defend their undocumented residents.

In his speech, which was followed by a YPU debate on sanctuary cities, O’Malley emphasized the value immigrants bring to the United States. O’Malley also pushed back against the argument that immigrants burden the economy, citing the fact that 43 percent of Fortune 500 companies were founded by first- and second-generation citizens.

“Immigrants don’t steal jobs,” O’Malley said to cheers from the left side of the auditorium and some hisses from the right.

In an interview with the News, O’Malley emphasized the importance of the immigration debate in a national context.

“Very few issues define us quite like immigration, especially here and now,” O’Malley said. “When I talk to young people across the country, there are two issues that really differentiate this generation, and that their perspective in diversity and immigration and climate change.”

In response to O’Malley’s speech, Chloe Heller ’21, a member of the Tory Party from Maryland who attended the event, said she thinks O’Malley “did a great job presenting to the constituents of Maryland.” She added that his policies are “a bit too progressive” for her tastes, but that she always enjoys hearing him speak.

Marlika Marceau ’21, a member of the Independent Party, said not supporting sanctuary cities is antithetical to American values. She emphasized that the right to survival should be considered a basic human right.

Milan Vivanco ’21, a member of the Conservative Party, critiqued some portion of O’Malley’s speech, but said he generally agrees with his views.

“Martin O’Malley put forward a very practical case from a policy standpoint on DACA as well as on the moral importance of immigration in the United States,” Vivanco said. “Some of his facts and figures were a bit misconstrued — for example, his claim that immigration with Mexico is a net zero is really avoiding the question of what legal immigration from Latin America is, and I wish he hadn’t employed that tactic — but, overall, I agree [with him].”

O’Malley has also served as mayor of Baltimore.

Isha Dalal | isha.dalal@yale.edu