Where’s Mayor Turner’s Declaration of Houston as a Sanctuary City?
Illustration by Shelby Hohl
Donald Trump is president-elect. He really is. I double checked and everything. Down is up, rats are fish, and Smashing Pumpkins are eligible for the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame next year. This shit is officially bananas!
One of the many, many terrible things that Trump said in his run for the presidency was that he would do his best to end sanctuary cities, places in the United States that do not typically seek out undocumented immigrants for deportation only because they are undocumented. In a speech in September he promised to cut federal funding to sanctuary cities and pass laws to make such cities cooperate with federal law enforcement. All part of Trump’s blatantly racist and willfully ignorant creed that brown people are responsible for the all the crime in this country, and one of the many dog whistles that propelled his win thanks to uneducated, easily-led white people.
In response, many mayors across America have vowed to defy Trump on the issue. San Francisco, New York and Illinois have already made statements regarding their intention not to break up families over civil offenses simply to feed a race-based paranoia that flies in the face of all statistics. The idea that immigrants, undocumented or not, commit more crime than native-born Americans is simply a myth.
Missing from the list of those that have taken a stand? Houston and Mayor Sylvester Turner. That’s unacceptable.
Let’s be clear: Trump may have won Texas, but he did not win Houston. Hillary Clinton not only beat Trump here, she beat him by a bigger margin than even George W. Bush won here by in 2004. It may not have been enough to turn Texas purple, but there’s no arguing that in terms of numbers Houston voters told Donald Trump to go pound sand.
Mayor Turner owes it to the people who voted him into power to make a statement rejecting Trump’s deportation schemes as other cities have done. Here more than anywhere else in the nation should we be clear that we will not be bullied into bigoted authoritarianism.
Houston is a city of immigrants. We’re the most diverse city in the country. Over 140 languages are spoken here. When I pick up my daughter from school she exits the building with children from Mexico, India, France, Brazil, Korea and God knows where else. Their parents come here to be engineers and doctors, and we are abundantly better for having them. They enrich us with culture and food and comfort and care for their fellow man.
This isn’t an uneducated place where emotionally-charged rhetoric should circumvent reason. We guide the path to space and pioneer life-saving medicine. We are cultured, full of museums and art and fine schools.
Houston should not trade any of that unique wonder in for a false sense of safety begotten by witch hunts. Yes, when people commit violent crimes and are found to not be in the country legally, they should be sent away. No one is questioning that, but banishing people because of a broken taillight or for trying to work is purity-driven madness.
In addition, it’s actively harmful to crime prevention. Houston police rely on upstanding members of the immigrant community to help solve crimes within that community. Such people need to feel they can safely call the police to help them with a murder or robbery without risking being deported. We don’t want some serial killer out on the streets because someone’s abuela wouldn’t take the chance that Johnny Law was going to run her papers.
The next four years are going to very much be about lines in the sand, something Texas is famously comfortable with. We have to decide who we want to be, and Houston voters made it abundantly clear that who they want to be is the opposite of Trump’s hate-filled vision. Our swampy soil is a poor place to build walls.
The mayor cannot be silent on this. He needs to make a definitive statement regarding where he stands, and thus can Houston judge him accordingly. We need to know that we can count on him to be firm on federal overreach and protect the families that contribute so much to what makes Houston special. Simply existing here should not be a crime in and of itself, and I’ll be damned if I’m going let President-Elect Trump blackmail us into turning HPD into browncoats without a fight. We’re better than that, and there’s no need to be shy about it. So let’s see something in writing, Mr. Mayor.
As for you, readers? You can contact the mayor’s office and let him know where you stand as well.
by Jef Rouner