To Counter Hate We Need Sanctuary for All

by Rossana Rodriguez (Nov. 2, 2018)

In the past few weeks we have witnessed horrific white supremacist violence: attacks against Black people, Jewish people, trans people, Native people, immigrants and so many others.

The president now says he intends to sign an executive order to end “automatic citizenship” for children born in the U.S. to immigrant parents. This is unconstitutional, but that’s not the point of this xenophobic rhetoric. Rather, the president’s aim is to further incite his white supremacist base, a base that has embraced violence as a political tactic with the goal of silencing voices and making dissent a fearful act.

Chicago, with its proud history of labor activism and anti-racist movements, has the potential to be the counter to this madness – a city that welcomes all and provides safety and fulfillment to its people. But our elected officials continue to hold the door open for Donald Trump, jeopardizing the people in our city and failing to stand up to the right-wing rampage.

Our mayor and many of our elected officials like to paint themselves as leaders in the resistance to Trump and the far right. Yet these same elected officials fall far short when it comes to combating the immediate threats posed and advancing an alternative to the Trump agenda.

As black and brown activists have been saying for years, Chicago is a sanctuary city in name only. The city’s refusal to close the loopholes in the Welcoming City ordinance, including its failure to abolish the gang database, leaves immigrant communities vulnerable to ICE and others who would do them harm.

Today our city’s movements for justice are putting forward demands to build a stronger sanctuary as part of a collective well-being. Issues such as affordable housing, strong public schools and services, and a living wage help keep communities stable and secure. For immigrant communities in particular, economic issues are linked to the idea of “sanctuary” – those who can’t afford to stay in Chicago often are put at greater risk as they are forced to leave for suburbs and other locations with even weaker sanctuary protections. However, those who hold political power in Chicago are too often proving to be roadblocks to the implementation of these demands.

This week, in the wake of the Jason Van Dyke murder conviction, only half of aldermen showed up to the City Council meeting where an $80 million increase in the city’s police budget was discussed. If passed, the city would be spending more on policing in one day that it spends on violence prevention in an entire year. In addition, the budget proposes to siphon $17 million from Chicago Public Schools to pay the Chicago Police Department to patrol the hallways of our schools.

This is the same Council that committed to spend $95 million on a cop academy and has repeatedly shot down a proposal for a Civilian Police Accountability Council. This is not the road to building sanctuary. When our elected officials treat black and brown communities as presumptive criminals, they reinforce Trump’s attacks on Chicago and his calls for ramping up policing, even to the point of militarizing our streets.

This moment is crucial and the fight required to turn back the growing white supremacist movement is urgent. As we mourn and stand in solidarity with Pittsburgh and Louisville, we need more than ever to tear down the structures and roadblocks that enable racism and hatred.

We are living in fearful times, but for us, inaction is not an option. If Chicago officials can’t recognize this and join the fight –– they must get out of the way.

My faith is in the movements that, in the face of all this, are building communities that are safe and welcoming and bring out the best in all of us. We know this is possible. We have to create it.

Rossana Rodriguez outside 33rd Ward Alderman Deb Mell’s office protesting against the $95 million Cop Academy.

Rossana Rodriguez outside 33rd Ward Alderman Deb Mell’s office protesting against the $95 million Cop Academy.

Robert Quellos