“Sanctuary” is a place of refuge and safety. It is the manger in Bethlehem, the Quba in Medina, the leaves of the Bodhi Tree. Sanctuary is also an idea, and sadly, a weapon of political gain and expediency.
This weapon is being used by some to make us afraid of people who do not look like us, and by others to make us afraid of lawsuits and funding cuts. We are told Sanctuary is too contentious. Yet when we envision a Tucson where everyone can thrive regardless of their immigration status, we realize sanctuary is not controversial — SB 1070 is. Operation Streamline, racial profiling, ICE tearing apart families and children living and dying in hieleras are the real controversies.
Sanctuary, safety, respect for life wherever it comes from — in what language are these dirty words? In what community are these reprehensible? Not here. We will not allow them to be.
To this end, we stand alongside dozens of local, community organizations that have signed on as co-sponsors of the “Tucson Families Free and Together Initiative,” which would impose specific rules aimed at reducing incidences of racial profiling, and prohibit local police from cooperating with federal immigration officials unless expressly required by state or federal law.
The initiative does not violate state law, but rather clarifies what local law enforcement can and cannot do when the law is silent. Some will label this “sanctuary.” Whatever the label, it is good governance to provide increased fairness and clarity. While we are confident the initiative will stand up to any challenge, we may have to fight to make Tucson a place of refuge and safety for all people, regardless of the color of their skin or the language they speak. No fight is more honorable.
Historically, Tucson has a long and rich history of standing up to injustice. Just two years ago, our elected city officials faced off against state legislators in defense of Tucson’s gun disposal program. The city refused to buckle under SB 1487, a state law Mayor Jonathan Rothschild called an effort to “intimidate local elected officials” and to “punish” the city for not falling in line with its “worldview.” Opponents of our gun disposal program argued it clearly violated state law, but nevertheless Tucson fought on and pushed forward largely on principle, even as we were threatened with a loss of state shared revenue.
If we took a stand then, we must take a stand now. With all that is going on around us, can you imagine a more worthwhile cause? To unite as a community and fight against the unjust laws passed in Phoenix and Washington, against racism and intolerance, against children being brutalized and families being destroyed.
Why now? Because battling against prejudice and family separation cannot be unwise or untimely, contrary to what our critics believe. This country was born in struggle, on the insistence that all people are created equal, and endowed with the unalienable rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.
As Dr. King said, in these trying times we cannot be more devoted to order than justice, or prefer the absence of tension to the presence of justice while repeating again and again “this is not a good time.” There is rarely a convenient time to do what is right, especially when our state and federal governments are doing so much that is wrong. Yet it is precisely now — when doing right is so difficult — that it becomes so absolutely necessary.
It will be hard-fought, but it will be worth it. We can keep Tucson families free and together.