WASHINGTON - Protesters confronted D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser on Wednesday claiming she is not doing enough to protect immigrants from U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.
Bowser was at the Mt. Pleasant Library leaving a ANC1D meeting Thursday morning when she was met by a group of demonstrators. She defended her stance on D.C.'s "sanctuary city" status as the protesters confronted her about taking a stronger stance against raids and deportations. The protest comes after President-elect Donald Trump's statement that he will pull federal funding from sanctuary cities.
"Your anger should not be addressed at your mayor because your mayor has stood up in every case for this community - period," said Bowser. "I have asserted firmly that we are a sanctuary city and our policies are clear."
A special council hearing was held Thursday to discuss federal immigration raids that have happened in other parts of the country and to oppose any such raids happening in the District of Columbia. This hearing was scheduled long before Trump was elected president.
But much of the discussion in the meeting centered on the new policies that the president-elect could put into place. One woman who testified at the hearing described the fear some families are already experiencing.
"Last winter as a result of the raids, some of the kids were showing up without wearing coats," she said. "And we would say, 'Where are your coats?' And they would say, 'My mom thinks I could run faster if I'm not lugging my coat if there is a raid.'"
If Trump does make good on his campaign promise on funding to sanctuary cities, D.C. Councilmember David Grosso (I-At-Large) said leadership needs to be prepared and D.C.'s billion dollar savings account may be needed.
"We also need to think about how the federal government may try to force us to give up our sanctuary city status again by threatening to cut federal dollars," Grosso said. "What I think we ought to do with our budget is actually put money in place up front as a placeholder to put back in to backfill all of these dollars to make sure we can actually make up for the fact the federal government might take this money away."
The D.C. Council also heard proposed legislation Thursday that could create a safe haven for Central American refugees and their families.
The resolution, which was introduced by Councilmember Brianne Nadeau in April of this year, calls for an end to immigration raids on immigrant families in the District. Nadeau claimed that federal raids in D.C. sparked fear in her Ward 1 constituents. Nadeau blamed the Obama administration for repeatedly targeting migrants from El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras -- the majority of whom were fleeing violence in their home countries.
"I am very committed to ensuring that we take seriously any accusations of crime and that we are not harboring criminals," Nadeau said when asked by FOX 5 if the resolution could present a danger by allowing criminals wanted by federal authorities to go free. "The fact is that in these raids, oftentimes, people who are not criminals get swept up." She said that she would prefer using gathered intelligence to separate the criminals from other migrants.
Nadeau's resolution will get on hearing on Thursday and a vote is expected in December.
READ THE RESOLUTION:
To declare the sense of the Council that all residents of the District deserve safety and security, regardless of immigration status, and that the Council opposes federal raids that jeopardize residents' privacy, safety, and security on suspicion of immigration status issues.
RESOLVED, BY THE COUNCIL OF THE DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA, That this resolution may be cited as the "Sense of the Council Regarding Federal Immigration Raids Resolution of 2016".
Sec. 2. The Council finds that:
(1) The current influx of migrants from Central America and other countries around the world is a humanitarian crisis.
(2) Many of the migrants coming to the District and other municipalities are children, and many are fleeing gang threats, murder, extortion, rape, and other abuses in addition to poverty and social exclusion.
(3) Between January 2014 and December 2015, as many as 83 migrants deported to the Northern Triangle (El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras) from the United States were murdered upon their return.
(4) When families are detained because of immigration status issues, they are often held in conditions that cause them further trauma. This is inconsistent with the values of the District.
(5) Starting early in 2016, federal immigration authorities conducted widespread raids to apprehend over 400 mothers, children and youth who crossed the southern border since 2014. The Obama administration has repeatedly targeted recent migrants from El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras, the overwhelming majority of whom demonstrate credible fear of persecution in their countries of origin but are unable to find legal representation to fight for their right to stay lawfully in the United States.
(6) Raids conducted to locate and arrest migrants who may be subject to deportation fosters distrust between residents and law enforcement, which harms public safety efforts and causes entire populations to avoid the police protection they deserve.
(7) The District has made many strong commitments to protecting children and families. Migrant children and families are deserving and in need of those commitments as well.
(8) The District is committed to treating migrants as full members of the community in many ways, such as by providing licenses and photo identification to residents who cannot document their residency status so that they can work, access services, and otherwise participate in society.
Sec. 3. It is the sense of the Council that the deportation raids targeting Central American refugee youth and families unjustly threaten the safety, well-being, and human rights of migrants in the District of Columbia and elsewhere and should be halted immediately.
Sec. 4. The Council shall transmit a copy of this resolution, upon its adoption, to the President of the United States, the Department of Homeland Security, and the Bureau of Immigration and Customs Enforcement.
Sec. 5. This resolution shall take effect immediately upon the first date of publication in the District of Columbia Register.