By Hannah Hafter on May 4, 2017
In part two of this blog series on Expanded Sanctuary, we make the case for an intersectional and expanded approach to sanctuary for cities in order to better protect its residents from dangers created by federal discriminatory policies. Click here to read part one.
“The destiny of our planet, our towns, and our lives is caught up in each others’ fates.” – Marisa Franco, Mijente
In response to growing threats under the current Administration, Latinx, Black, Muslim, and transgender organizers are coming together to lead a new movement for “Expanded Sanctuary” – a simple and radical re-definition of sanctuary as dignity and protection for all. While typical sanctuary city policies have focused on protections for undocumented immigrants, expanded sanctuary policies recognize that the current administration is jointly threatening the rights of a wide range of communities. Subsequently, the best policies to protect city residents from unwarranted targeting address the issues various communities face together. Expanded Sanctuary is a policy approach that recognizes our collective liberation.
Janaé Bonsu, National Public Policy Chair of BYP 100, explains in her article in Essence magazine, Black People Need Sanctuary Too: “Without addressing safety and protections for all targeted communities, sanctuary is a misnomer…Whether it’s stop-and-frisk or no-knock raids, both undocumented immigrants and U.S.-born Black folks have a vested stake in redefining what sanctuary really means, and in resisting Trump’s ‘law-and-order’ agenda. Trump has made it clear that he is committed to strengthening all law enforcement, not just immigration agents. Thus, policies that address racist policing, incarceration and criminalization must be part of the demands of the immigrant rights movement. As long as the immigration and criminal justice systems are interconnected, creating real sanctuary cities is an issue of linked fate and real practical, principled solidarity.”
Expanded Sanctuary Policies for Cities & Counties
There are straightforward policy changes available to cities and counties that want to expand sanctuary to be radically inclusive of all communities threatened by the current administration and historically oppressed. The key components of expanding sanctuary at the city and county level involve: (1) reducing unnecessary arrests and over-policing; (2) eliminating profiling and broad surveillance; (3) and shifting funding to community programs.
Reduce unnecessary arrests & over-policing
- De-criminalize crimes of poverty/survival such as fare evasion, panhandling, and loitering.
- End law enforcement quotas for tickets and arrests.
- Increase the use of diversion programs as an alternative to formal criminal charges.
In 2015 in New York City, 29,000 people were charged with fare evasion on public transit, the largest category of arrests in the city—and 94% were people of color. The numbers are so high in part because of daily quotas for fare evasion—each which come with a $100 fine—which if not paid, results in a criminal summons.
Eliminate profiling and broad surveillance
- Discontinue the use of biased and unconfirmed gang databases.
- Issue police directives against racial and religious profiling, and provide training.
- Publicly refuse to engage in surveillance or infiltration of mosques, activist groups, and social media.
Gang databases have no fair and transparent process for how and why names are added, and are not always accurate. For example, in California, a gang database was found to include 42 people whose names were added before they were a year old. Yet they are used by local and federal law enforcement as a trusted source, and anyone in a gang database is a higher priority for deportation.
Shift funding to community programs
- Re-allocate more of the city’s budget from law enforcement directly to jobs and education programs for the most marginalized, including transgender and gender-non-conforming individuals.
- Invest in drug treatment and mental health treatment rather than arrests.
- Refuse to receive federal resources for militarizing local police with tanks, grenade launchers, assault rifles, and more.
Many major cities now spend more than 50% of their budget on law enforcement, and nationally, if just 40% of those eligible received drug treatment instead of prison sentences, it would both save $12.9 billion and significantly reduce recidivism.
The time is long overdue for cities and counties to take their cues from people who have been suffering the most from over-policing such as communities of color and transgender people.
Mijente, which describes their work as “a movement that is not just pro-Latinx…but pro-Black, pro-women, pro-queer, and pro-poor because our community is all that and more” – is taking the lead on compiling exactly those resources. You can check out their detailed, crowdsourced “Expanding Sanctuary Policy Solutions” document here. Another fantastic resource is BYP100’s “Agenda to Keep us Safe,” their policy platform to end criminalization of Black youth.
Keep an eye out for the Love Resists policy guide coming soon on the campaign website, and our next blog post in this series, Expanded Sanctuary in Our Schools!