Mayors Push Back Against Pressure to “Resist” Immigration Enforcement
By David Jaroslav | August 9, 2018
Local officials across the country face a nationwide movement to promote and enact sanctuary policies at the expense of enforcing our immigration laws. Mayors in particular are some of the open-borders crowd’s most prominent targets. Of course, some mayors are among the biggest sanctuary activists themselves, like Portland’s Ted Wheeler or Philadelphia’s Jim Kenney. But two mayors have recently highlighted the level of pressure they can come under when they do the right thing and continue to work with immigration authorities.
Connecticut is a sanctuary state. Its so-called “Trust Act,” passed in 2013, forbids state and local law enforcement from holding illegal aliens on federal immigration detainers unless any of a list of exceptions applies. But those exceptions are part of why its sanctuary law is weaker than those of some states, like California, Illinois or Oregon. It also doesn’t ban asking about someone’s immigration status or limit communicating with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). That means that local officials who are genuinely committed to immigration enforcement, like longtime Danbury Mayor Mark Boughton (R), still have a fair amount of room to make sure their cities and towns are working with ICE rather than against them.
Boughton has been Mayor since 2002, a record in the city and probably across the state. Throughout that time, he’s stressed his commitment to combating the dangers posed by illegal immigration. In 2005, 15,000 people in Danbury, or approximately 19 percent of the city’s population, were estimated to be illegal aliens. Under Boughton’s tenure, that number is now believed to have dropped to 5,000 at most.
Boughton says, “I take an oath of office to enforce the law and ICE is a federal agency partner that we work with and most of the time we get very bad people out of the community … at the end of the day you don’t pick and choose which laws you enforce and which you don’t.”
Unsurprisingly, open-borders activists try to paint him as some kind of villain. On August 1, in reaction to two more illegal aliens being turned over by Danbury to ICE, they protested against Boughton in front of City Hall. One protester condemned him for “continued complicity with ICE terror” while another accused “elected officials [of] profiting from fear mongering[.]” Connecticut Democratic Party Chairman Nick Balletto adopted their emotional rhetoric, saying “Mark Boughton has instituted a culture of fear and retribution in Danbury[.]”
But unlike much of the state, Danbury is growing, and not just its population, but its economy as well. Its 3.9 percent unemployment rate in April was nearly a full percentage point below the state’s as a whole. By contrast to some Connecticut cities like New Haven, which have more extreme sanctuary policies and are plagued by both unemployment and crime, Boughton notes that “Danbury’s the safest city in the state.” He’s shown what mayors can do to protect their cities from the harmful effects of illegal immigration, even when state law might be on the other side.
Alabama is an anti-sanctuary state, with a state law, House Bill (HB) 56, that banned sanctuary policies back in 2011. But of course that doesn’t stop people who support such dangerous policies from trying to push local officials to adopt them anyway.
Recently, a coalition of open-borders groups sent an open letter to Birmingham Mayor Randall Woodfin (D) requesting, or rather insisting, that he unilaterally make Birmingham into a sanctuary city by executive order. They set a deadline of July 27 for him to either issue their proposed order or respond back to them with questions, concerns or suggested changes.
In terms of their backgrounds, Mayor Woodfin couldn’t be much of a sharper contrast to Mayor Boughton. He’s young (37), African-American, a Democrat, and has only been in office since last November, after defeating a two-term incumbent. But so far he hasn’t acceded to the activists’ demands, even after their self-proclaimed deadline passed almost two weeks ago. They held their inevitable City Hall protest on July 31, but that, too, doesn’t appear to have changed his mind.
For all anyone knows, Woodfin’s personal sympathies might be with the open-borders coalition. But as mayor he appears to be putting the interests of Birmingham first. He ran on expanding the city’s police force and reducing crime, so rejecting sanctuary policies is a natural fit, too. He’s keeping dangerous criminal aliens off his city’s streets and also likely keeping it from being sued for violating state law. It may not be the popular thing for him to do in some circles, but it’s the right thing, and as long as he keeps it up, it’s very much to his credit. Birmingham is thriving, growing, and driving forward Alabama’s economy: why do anything that could stop that?
Woodfin supported Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT), and has been publicly supported by him. He’s been called a populist as often as a progressive. Perhaps he shares some of the old-style left-wing populist skepticism of the open-borders agenda that Senator Sanders at least used to have, as others in America from labor organizer Cesar Chavez to Texas Congresswoman Barbara Jordan once did. If so, this could be a very encouraging development indeed.