Moving From Politics to PolicyMay 4, 2017
At the state and national level, some policymakers are attempting to withhold public funding from localities (commonly called “Sanctuary Cities”) that choose to set their own law enforcement priorities regarding undocumented immigrants. In Texas, for example, the state legislature is currently working to reconcile the differences between its Senate and House-passed legislation to withhold all state funding and federal pass-through dollars from communities that are refusing to detain undocumented immigrants for nonserious crimes. At the national level, President Trump issued an Executive Order, currently blocked from implementation by a court-order, which would withhold federal funding from these localities as well (and there are no cuts to Sanctuary Cities in the current Congressional spending bill).
If these cuts are implemented, human service organizations are at risk of losing the funding that communities rely on to build and maintain the well-being that we all need to thrive throughout our lives.
Our partners at One Voice Central Texas are working with community leaders in Austin to make sure that fellow Texans understand the full implications of this policy. In a recent commentary published in the Austin American-Statesman, Angela-Jo Touza-Medina, chair of Immigrant Services Network of Austin, and Ronda Rutledge, chair of One Voice Central Texas, weave together the FrameWorks Institute’s research on immigration reform and human services to provide a thoughtful, thorough explanation of how the policy stands to disrupt the health and well-being of the entire state.
We appreciate this valuable contribution to the discourse on immigration and human services from One Voice Central Texas and Immigrant Services Network of Austin. Following are a few key highlights from the piece that we think will be especially useful to advocates facing similar challenges.
The Op-Ed begins with an affirmation of deeply held values that Texans share, and from there describes how the proposed policies contradict those values.
“In Texas, we have a long tradition of looking out for one another. We all have a role to play in building our community’s well-being. Texans place a high priority on being practical. We roll up our sleeves and figure out how to handle a challenge in the most sensible way. We have a strong moral compass and understand that all people deserve to be treated with respect and compassion.”
They opt for explanation over politicization. According to FrameWorks, the term “sanctuary city” cues up political ideology for the audience, making it easy to take partisan mental shortcuts when deciding to agree or disagree with a message. The authors navigate around this by providing an explanation of local law enforcements’ goals when establishing how to work with immigrant populations, and how those goals benefit the community.
“Our local law enforcement entities, like those in many other cities and counties across the state and the nation, have adopted practical policies that help them stay focused on their responsibility to local public safety…Law enforcement knows that good relationships and focusing on ‘people as people’ are good for public safety. We are all better off when our neighbors in immigrant communities feel safe talking to police. Witnesses and victims of crime need to feel safe coming to law enforcement for help.”
They provide examples of how their community benefits when human service organizations are available to help build well-being at different stages of life.
“Travis County’s strong nonprofit sector helps ensure that children have opportunities to learn and play; that adults can learn new skills after layoffs; and that older adults can contribute to our communities in meaningful ways.”
They close with an appeal for policymakers to commit to sensible solutions to address the complex challenge of immigration reform.
“We encourage Texas policymakers to work with the federal government to adjust our nation’s immigration policies and find the best way to embrace the energy and talents of people who come to Texas from other parts of the world. That’s a complex issue that demands thoughtful solutions. In the meantime, the state government has a responsibility to protect the well-being of Texans.”
We encourage everyone to read “On Immigration, State is Hurting Local Communities” and to apply similar strategies to your communications. Thank you to Julie Sweetland from the FrameWorks Institute for helping us with this statement.