Syracuse Officials Promise to Protect Immigrants Against Threats from Washington

Mar 28, 2017

Advocates in here in Syracuse and in New York State are standing behind refugees and immigrants against policy statements from Washington. In the wake of Attorney General Sessions’ threat to cut funding from sanctuary cities, Syracuse Mayor Stephanie Miner is holding firm, even after a threat by Attorney General Jeff Sessions to cut funds from sanctuary cities.

 “We will not be bullied by somebody who is trying to demagogue hard working people who are often escaping violence and retribution and looking to our country as a sanctuary so that they can live in peace and raise their families,” said Miner.

Syracuse residents have a long history of advocating for immigrants.
Credit WAER Archive

Miner says the city is resolute in its commitment to remaining a sanctuary city, even against the threat of losing federal dollars. She considers the issue similar to other Trump administration viewpoints that have negative effects.

“These are policies that are going to have a terrible upon affordable housing, upon education and the environment. Demagoging immigrants is just one further negative policy,” said Miner. “You’re going to see elected officials, mayors and city councilors stand up and say we are not going to allow you to make generalizations about hard working immigrants.”

Syracuse Common Councilor Chad Ryan shares the principle of an open-door policy, but is waiting to hear more details before condemning the federal action.

“We certainly have open arms here in Syracuse, and so I stand behind those values of being an open arms county. This is America we’re all immigrants,” said Ryan. “But until you get to see what cuts may actually happen or could happen it’s hard to really sit there and make a decision on whether it’s worth it or not to be a sanctuary city.”

Protests are frequently seen throughout Syracuse when there is a threat to immigrants.
Credit WAER Archive

The New York Immigration Coalition is also standing with immigrants. Executive Director Steve Choi says cutting funding to cities seems counter to the attorney general’s purpose.   

 “I just want to note that the money that they are trying to pull is for community safety, more often than not it’s going to police departments,” said Choi. “So in the guise of trying to make our city safer by attacking them as sanctuary cities, they are very clearly making them less safe. That is really the hypocrisy of this effort here.”

Choi launched the Liberty Defense Project last year to provide pro-bono legal services for immigrants. Sanctuary cities like Syracuse provide somewhat of a safe haven. Choi would like to see the state and Governor Cuomo step in to provide more funding as immigrants continue to worry.

Protest groups aim to protect the rights and safety of immigrants.
Credit WAER Archive

“They are very, very scared right now. And so our member agencies are reporting that their waiting rooms are jammed, that their waiting lists are full,” said Choi. “If the governor is not fighting for public dollars to make a serious significant investment in this liberty defense project, the kind of back log that our members are seeing and the number of unserved community members is only going to grow.”

Mayor Miner says she’s had support from mayors of New York City and Boston in standing up for immigrant rights, including sanctuary designations.