Recent events have left many thousands of our San José residents — about forty percent of whom were born in a foreign country — in fear. Some of our neighbors, friends, and family fear changes in immigration rules or enforcement that could separate their families. Others voice concerns about proposed federal “registries” of community members of the Muslim faith. Still others point to the nationwide spike in “hate crimes” in recent days.
I have sought — through Spanish-language television, social media, and in public demonstrations — to convey a simple message to our wonderfully diverse community: “We’ve got your back.”
What do I mean by that, “We’ve got your back?” We cannot control the events in Washington, D.C., but we can do much to care for each other here at home:
We will Not Tolerate “Hate Crimes” in San José
Police Chief Eddie Garcia and the rest of our Police Department are committed to enforce the law against anyone engaged in committing hate crimes against our residents, such as last week’s attack on a hijab-wearing student at San Jose State University. The immigration status of the victim or of the reporting party do not matter, and will not be reported. Please report all such incidents to the Police Department, at 408-277-8991 or online at <http://www.sjpd.org/ReportingCrime/>; for additional assistance, please reach out to our local partners <http://www.sanjoseca.gov/index.aspx?NID=5273>.
We Will Not Allow Our Police To Be Used for Federal Immigration Enforcement
Changes to immigration laws and enforcement remain within the province of federal policy makers. However, the police chiefs of most major U.S. cities –including our own — agree that local police should not involve themselves in federal immigration enforcement; doing so undermines public safety, by discouraging critically-needed cooperation in diverse communities. Consider, for example, how fear of apprehension or deportation could undermine our efforts to ensure reliable reporting of fires or medical emergencies, provision of witness statements, reporting of victimization, tipping about pending gang violence, or testimony in court. Moreover, our sparsely-staffed police must focus their scarce time on violent, predatory, and other high-priority crimes. We will continue to follow the best practices of local law enforcement professionals nationally by staying out of immigration enforcement.
We Will Protect the Constitutional Rights of San José Residents
Campaign rhetoric does not always receive the benefit of prior thoughtful analysis, so we cannot know if assertions made on the stump — such as those relating to Muslim “registries” — will materialize into action. Nonetheless, we will closely monitor any proposed legislation or executive actions from the new administration, and work closely with our congressional representatives, other major cities, and if necessary, the courts, to protect the Constitutional rights of our residents. We’ve had success joining together in the past and will be prepared to do so again.
We Will Support Our Community Through Our Office of Immigrant Affairs
In my first weeks in office, we created an Office of Immigrant Affairs to take advantage of then-existing federal programs to legalize status of our residents and improve access to City services-such as for the immigrant entrepreneurs who launch half of our City’s small businesses each year. Director Zulma Maciel and the City have made considerable progress-launching “citizenship corners” in a dozen libraries, hastening the translation of key applications and documents, and boosting multilingual small business permitting assistance, for example. Check our website, or local non-profits able to assist for assistance. Student “dreamers” born in a foreign country may also find helpful information at United We Dream.
As French resistance leader Andre Malraux urged, “Instead of lamenting the absurdity of the world, let us try to transform the corner of it into which we were born.” We’ve got much work to do to take care of each other, and to transform San José’s corner of the world. We’ve got your back.