Sanctuary City Mayors Urge Obama to Take Last-Minute Steps to Shield the Undocumented

Mayor Bill de Blasio at an immigration reform rally.

Mayor Bill de Blasio at an immigration reform rally. Kena Betancur/Getty Images

Mayor Bill de Blasio and 30 other city and county leaders released an open letter to President Barack Obama today, calling on him to extend executive protections for undocumented immigrants in the final weeks before President-elect Donald Trump assumes the Oval Office.

The missive was a collective effort of the Cities for Action coalition, a group of pro-immigration reform municipal leaders that also includes Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti, Syracuse Mayor Stephanie Miner and Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney. It expended several paragraphs praising the president for his controversial unilateral actions easing deportation enforcement—particularly the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, which shields individuals entered the country without proper paperwork as minors.

As the country braces for Trump to implement plans to expel at least two million foreign nationals, the local officials encouraged the sitting president to allow some 740,000 people participating in DACA to apply for another two-year extension even if their current protection period has yet to expire.

“DACA has tremendously benefitted our communities by helping our residents thrive and contribute in myriad ways,” the pols wrote, also encouraging U.S. Customs and Immigration Services to expedite incoming applications. “We call upon your administration to accept early renewal applications for current DACA holders to extend temporary protections for them. In addition, we urge USCIS to commit to speedy processing of initial and renewal applications.”

The letter vaguely beseeches Obama to safeguard the personal information of those currently in the DACA program, likely in anticipation that Trump’s administration might lay hands on the records in its deportation efforts. De Blasio is currently battling a Republican lawsuit at home that seeks to stop him from purging the files of his municipal identification program, believed to contain the private details of thousands of undocumented immigrants across the city.

The mayors and county executives also encouraged the current commander-in-chief to expand the eligibility for Temporary Protected Status, which allows immigrants to remain in the U.S. if the Attorney General deems their homelands unsafe, whether for humanitarian or environmental reasons. The pols specified hurricane-ravaged Haiti and earthquake-shaken Ecuador as two nations to consider designating as too dangerous to go back to.

“We now ask that your administration continues this urgent form of humanitarian protection by reviewing the current TPS designations and extending such designations or making re-designations or new designations as appropriate before the end of your term,” the epistle reads. “In particular, we urge your administration to take steps to protect immigrants from countries that recently experienced extraordinary conditions.”

The City Council recently passed a resolution vowing that New York would remain a “sanctuary city”—that is, a haven for the undocumented from federal enforcement. Garcetti and Emanuel, among others, have made similar pledges.

The Obama administration has already made one move that could frustrate Trump’s agenda: dismantling ex-President George W. Bush’s National Security Entry-Exit Registration System, established in the aftermath of 9/11 to track non-citizens inside the U.S., particularly from Middle Eastern nations. Civil liberties advocates feared that the program could become the framework of the president-elect’s proposed Muslim registry.

Read the full letter below:

Dear President Obama:

As mayors and county executives in the Cities for Action coalition, we write to thank you for your leadership on behalf of immigrant families and urge you to take action to ensure continued support for vulnerable immigrants in our communities before you leave office.

Cities for Action is a national coalition of over 100 mayors and county executives that advocates for inclusive local policies and national immigration reform. As local government leaders throughout the country, we know that immigrants make our communities stronger economically, culturally, and socially. For this reason, we have enthusiastically embraced the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, expressed repeated support for and defense of your 2014 executive actions on immigration, and worked closely with your administration to promote citizenship and the economic, social, and civic integration of immigrants.

On behalf of millions of our immigrant residents and their families, we thank you for the steps your administration has taken to support vulnerable immigrant populations, from bright young people who may only know life in this country, to immigrants who cannot return to their home countries because of conflict or natural disaster, as well as those who look to the U.S. to lead on human rights and non-discrimination. These actions reflect the ideals of inclusion and refuge that our country is founded on.

We also thank you for listening to concerns from local leaders, among other voices, and taking steps this week to end the failed National Security Entry-Exit Registration System (NSEERS) program. This “special registration” program was discriminatory and created great fear and turmoil within our communities, particularly among Muslim immigrants, while not providing any increase in security. A revival of the program would only serve to heighten tensions and increase the risk of bias-based crimes at a time when hate speech and hate crimes are on the rise. For these reasons, we commend your Administration for this move.

We urge that you continue your support for immigrant communities in the last few weeks of your presidency. Specifically, we suggest that your administration (1) continue support for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) recipients, and (2) continue support for immigrants who have Temporary Protected Status (TPS).

First, we encourage you to undertake steps to support the over 740,000 DACA recipients in the U.S. DACA has tremendously benefitted our communities by helping our residents thrive and contribute in myriad ways. For this reason, we are committed to advocating for the continuation of DACA in the next administration and for legislative relief for Dreamers in Congress. In the meantime, we call upon your administration to accept early renewal applications for current DACA holders to extend temporary protections for them. In addition, we urge USCIS to commit to speedy processing of initial and renewal applications and urge your administration to implement additional privacy protections for DACA holders to reassure recipients that they will not be punished as a result of coming out of the shadows.

Second, we urge you to extend protections for immigrants who cannot return safely to their countries of origin because of extraordinary conditions, including natural disasters or armed conflict. Cities for Action has applauded the steps that your administration has taken to grant temporary relief to these individuals. We now ask that your administration continues this urgent form of humanitarian protection by reviewing the current TPS designations and extending such designations or making re-designations or new designations as appropriate before the end of your term. In particular, we urge your administration to take steps to protect immigrants from countries that recently experienced extraordinary conditions that have made return unsafe, including Haiti and Ecuador. We also ask that USCIS commit to swift processing for TPS applications and re-registrations.

Thank you again for the many positive actions you have undertaken as President on behalf of immigrants in our communities, and we hope that you will consider these recommendations.

Sincerely,

Ed Pawlowski, Mayor of Allentown, PA
Steve Adler, Mayor of Austin, TX
Catherine Pugh, Mayor of Baltimore, MD
William Bell, Mayor of Birmingham, AL
Marty Walsh, Mayor of Boston, MA
Lydia Lavelle, Mayor of Carrboro, NC
Albert Robles, Mayor of Carson, CA
Pam Hemminger, Mayor of Chapel Hill, NC
Rahm Emanuel, Mayor of Chicago, IL
Michael Hancock, Mayor of Denver, CO
Roy D. Buol, Mayor of Dubuque, IA
Svante Myrick, Mayor of Ithaca, NY
Madeline Rogero, Mayor of Knoxville, TN
Eric Garcetti, Mayor of Los Angeles, CA
Paul Soglin, Mayor of Madison, WI
Manuel Cantu, Mayor of McFarland, CA
Ike Leggett, Executive of Montgomery County, MD
Yxstian Gutierrez, Mayor of Moreno Valley, CA
Toni Harp, Mayor of New Haven, CT
Noam Bramson, Mayor of New Rochelle, NY
Bill de Blasio, Mayor of New York City, NY
Jim Kenney, Mayor of Philadelphia, PA
Liz Lempert, Mayor of Princeton, NJ
Jorge Elorza, Mayor of Providence, RI
John Dickert, Mayor of Racine, WI
Tom Butt, Mayor of Richmond, CA
Kevin Johnson, Mayor of Sacramento, CA
Ed Lee, Mayor of San Francisco, CA
Ed Murray, Mayor of Seattle, WA
Francis Slay, Mayor of St. Louis, MO
Stephanie Miner, Mayor of Syracuse, NY

Disclosure: Donald Trump is the father-in-law of Jared Kushner, the publisher of Observer Media.