EDITORIAL: Reach out to immigrants, and speak up for them

York Dispatch

Given the Trump administration’s relentless and sometimes cruel attacks, immigrants in America have good reason to be afraid.

Here is a man who appears to have no plan, who blunders from one crisis of his own making to another and whose moral and ethical lapses (at least) are elbowing for room on his roost.

Yet Trump has done a remarkable job of distracting the public, and one way has been to stand up the immigrant — documented or undocumented — as a straw man disaffected Americans can blame for their problems.

It’s obvious, it’s despicable and it’s working to a shameful extent.

File - In this May 16, 2018, file photo, President Donald Trump listens to a question during a meeting in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington. Trump says he'll demand that the Justice Department review whether it or the FBI infiltrated his campaign and whether any demands came from the Obama administration. Trump tweeted Sunday, May 20: "I hereby demand, and will do so officially tomorrow, that the Department of Justice look into whether or not the FBI/DOJ infiltrated or surveilled the Trump Campaign for Political Purposes." (AP Photo/Evan Vucci, File)

And that’s one reason we’re grateful York City officials are reaching out to an immigrant community whose welfare is at risk as members are being silenced and pushed further into the shadows by well-founded fear.

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Earlier this month 11 immigrants were arrested in Gettysburg during a series of Immigration and Customs Enforcement raids on local restaurants.

It was part of a larger and expanding crackdown on undocumented immigrants under Trump, but it was the highest-profile raid near York County.

"The raid in Gettysburg hit close to home," said Elizabeth Alex, regional director for CASA, a Maryland-based organization that advocates for Latino communities.

Elizabeth Alex, regional director for CASA, speaks to a group of immigrants and advocates as they protest in front of the  Senator Scott Wagner's office to denounce his hard line position against immigrants, Monday, May 1, 2017. John A. Pavoncello photo

"People are afraid," she added "Most people that we know are aware of someone who has had a family member or friend detained in the last couple years."

Into this darkness stepped Interim York City Police Chief Troy Bankert, who visited CASA’s downtown offices last month to introduce himself and hold a meeting with a group of 15 people to discuss police-immigrant relations.

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Bankert said he wanted to dispel the idea that immigrants should hesitate to report crimes because investigators will report their immigration status to ICE.

"If they're an immigrant, legal or illegal, they can easily become victimized, because they don't want to call the police," the chief said. "I wanted to make sure that they know that we don't care where they're from if they call the police; we are just looking for justice for victims."

Lt. Troy Bankert talks about York City Police Department's Group Violence Intervention initiative during Mayor C. Kim Bracey's Town Hall meeting at the Yorktown Center on Kelly Drive, Tuesday, March 28, 2017.  John A. Pavoncello photo

In fact, this has been the policy for years and was the idea behind former Mayor Kim Bracey’s 2017 executive order designating York a “welcoming city.”

It’s a symbolic move, and it doesn‘t make York a "sanctuary city," a label applied to cities that ban local law enforcement from informing federal immigration authorities about someone’s immigration status.

Still, the message is that York City officials are more concerned about residents’ welfare than their immigration status, and they aren’t going to go out of their way have them deported.

Although Bracey signed her order four days into Trump’s administration, it appears no one from the police department bothered to reach out to the immigrant community the way Bankert is doing now.

"I do think there's been a lack of communication with immigrants," he said. "It doesn't seem like a visit like mine has been done before, but the communication is vital. I can't solve everyone's problems. I need them to help me, so I can do the same in turn."

Josefina Carrasco, a Mexican immigrant and 14-year resident of York City, attended the CASA meeting with Bankert and said it was helpful.

Like us, she hopes Bankert and other city officials hold more events and activities to bring police and immigrants together.

Carrasco also notes that not all police departments are as welcoming as York City’s, and she hopes local officials also speak up loudly to counter anti-immigrant rhetoric at the national level.

We couldn’t agree more — count us in.