Sanctuary City | Jackson Free Press | Jackson, MS

Sanctuary City

Stop the presses. They're calling Jackson a "Sanctuary City." The only one in Mississippi. Pass the Champagne!


It's been only 40 years since the U.S. Supreme Court forced Jackson Public Schools, among others, to integrate "with all deliberate speed." The Supreme Court finally lowered the boom on Mississippi and other states that had required segregation by law in our schools, libraries, on our public beaches and about anywhere else you could think of.

By the time the high court forced our public schools to stop fighting the 1954 Brown v. Board decision over Christmas break 1969-70 (leading to thousands of white families fleeing Jackson Public Schools), the enforcers of the racist status quo had told lie after lie about black people in order to scare white people into going along with the scam. Just as anti-immigrant demagogues are doing today with their fuzzy statistics, con artists like Carleton Putnam ("Race and Reason") filled books with supposed facts and stats meant to prove that African Americans are bad for America, violent, lazy and a drain on public resources.

Less than 50 years ago, our racist mayor had his "Thompson Tank" to push back black folks who got out of line, and the power structure encouraged with their rhetoric (if not direct participation) act after violent act that left inspirational leaders like Medgar Evers dead in a pool of blood in front of his children.

It will have been 50 years next May 24 since the Freedom Riders ended their infamous and bloody journey at the Greyhound station downtown and walked into the waiting paddy wagons of a Jackson police force that took them to jail for daring to use the whites-only facilities at the station. It hasn't been that long ago when city officials had young civil-rights marchers dumped into the scorching, filthy livestock pens at the fairgrounds where they were mistreated for days.

Many then would not have believed it possible that Jackson leaders would some day take a stand against bigotry and discrimination of non-white U.S. citizens. But they did.

This week, the Jackson City Council passed an ordinance essentially forbidding a repeat of the discriminatory Arizona legislation calling for police to profile anyone who looked like they could be an undocumented immigrant, including U.S. citizens who might share a certain darker skin tone.

Our city took the opposite, more humane, intelligent and American approach, saying that police officers "shall not solicit" information to determine whether a person is complying with federal immigration law or ask a person seeking police services or is a victim of a crime to prove immigration status.

The reasons for such an ordinance are so obvious to anyone but the most hateful and/or desirous of hateful votes: (1) Police should not profile a U.S. citizen in order to demand immigration papers based on a feeling or their bigotry, (2) You should not have to prove immigration status to get police help when you need it, and (3) Requiring and/or allowing such profiling encourages undocumented immigrants to not report crimes, hurting themselves and future victims of the criminals who don't get caught as a result.

When I heard about this ordinance, I was proud of my city. It brought home how far we've come that we have leadership this compassionate about people who, for the most part, do not share their ethnicity or skin tone. (Not to mention the smart crime-fighting component of such an action.)

Alas, and tragically, this action was like red meat to the Republican "southern strategy" contingent in the state who still seem to believe that the only way they can get elected is by pitting white people against "the other." Lt. Gov. Phil Bryant--probably the Republican front-runner for governor next year--wrote one of his carefully crafted anti-immigration campaign pieces, this one a letter hand-delivered to the City Council. He summarized the ordinance as "prohibit(ing) employees of the City of Jackson from verifying the citizenship or legal residency status of individuals, at least in some circumstances." (Emphasis added.)

Bryant then baited and switched, pointing out that "employers" in Mississippi can only hire "legal citizens" or "legal aliens"--which had nothing to do with this ordinance. He then said that the Legislature says it is "compelling public interest" of the state to require all state agencies to fully enforce federal immigration laws. Thus, he said, the ordinance "would appear to violate state law."

This letter made no more sense than Bryant's 2006 political screed against immigration (see Adam Lynch's cover story this issue). The ordinance did not call for police to violate federal law; it made it clear that their priorities are to help people, citizens and non, and not to violate the constitutional rights of U.S. citizens who happen to have dark skin.

Over on his not-very-smart "Majority in Mississippi" blog, Republican Brett Kettridge stated what he seemed to consider an awful insult to the city in an Aug. 26 blog post: "Jackson Moves Closer to Sanctuary City Status."

I breathed a sigh of relief that the capital city of Mississippi could possibly be considered by anyone to be a "sanctuary" for oppressed people of color who are maligned and lied about for a few people to achieve political power. It was one of those moments when I realize just how much I love my city.

What puzzles me, though, is the use of the word "sanctuary," as if providing such a thing to people who need police assistance is a bad thing. Easton's Bible Dictionary defines sanctuary as "the Holy Land ... the holy place, the place of the Presence ... God's holy habitation in heaven." The Dictionary of the Bible calls it "a place of holiness or security."

Yet, somehow, this attempt to do the right thing toward human beings--and humans who tend to have a damn fine work ethic and contribute to our economy, papers or not--is so horrible that anti-federal government types are blasting the city for not violating the constitutional rights of citizens to try to help the feds defend federal immigration law.

The Majority in Mississippi blog post linked to a "The Original List of Sanctuary Cities, USA." There we were again, the only city in Mississippi on the list. What a great message to send nationally about how much we've changed, at least in the capital city.

We sure have come a long way from those livestock pens, baby.

Previous Comments

ID
159890
Comment

Tell it like it was, Donna and let's celebrate the fact that finally we are recognized for something that can be viewed as a positive. We do not give power and authority to our men and women in uniform to violate the rights of others. There will be no racial profiling and no request for "papers." We've come a l o n g way, BABy! Ps. My hat goes off to the 6 council persons who voted for the ordinance to protect immigrants from being harassed. Mr. Weil, What are you thinking?

Author
justjess
Date
2010-09-22T13:21:29-06:00
ID
159895
Comment

I see nothing to celebrate or be so happy about, Sanctuary City, just word's telling illegal aliens that it's ok come here nobody will turn you in and the city coucil just tied the police's hands and is keeping them from doing their job. Don't see how a city helping people violate the law is anything to celebrate.

Author
BubbaT
Date
2010-09-22T13:58:58-06:00
ID
159902
Comment

Actually, it doesn't say that, Bubba. You really need to learn to read closer. Thanks, Jay and Justjess. ;-) This one's been percolating for about a month!

Author
DonnaLadd
Date
2010-09-22T15:11:10-06:00
ID
159905
Comment

Donna, I read it very closely, and don't agree with it. You need to read the Arizona law more closely it doesn't have a word in it about police profiling anyone. It says if they have probably cause to suspect someone is here illegally to question them about it. Doesn't say a word about question anyone because of their race.

Author
BubbaT
Date
2010-09-22T16:03:17-06:00
ID
159910
Comment

I've read the Arizona law, Bubba. So did the judge that blocked part of it. Of course, it doesn't say "race." Come on. That's not done these days. Now, we speak in doublespeak.

Author
DonnaLadd
Date
2010-09-22T17:35:44-06:00
ID
159916
Comment

Just because some judge blocked part of it,doesn't mean he was right. Judges do a lot of stupid things.

Author
BubbaT
Date
2010-09-22T19:50:27-06:00
ID
159925
Comment

That is true, Bubba. But this is not one of those situations. I must say, I'm rather surprised that so-called conservatives would support a law that allows law enforcement to demand papers from U.S. citizens based on a police officer's belief that he or she might be illegal. But when it comes to immigration and ethnicity issues, some things seem to trump actual conservative ideals for some of you, no? Here's a different kind of Republican response to immigration.

Author
DonnaLadd
Date
2010-09-23T09:04:34-06:00
ID
159929
Comment

"I must say, I'm rather surprised that so-called conservatives would support a law that allows law enforcement to demand papers from U.S. citizens based on a police officer's belief that he or she might be illegal." That should not be so surprising, as most conservatives are "law and order" types. Only the left wing folks seem to have a problem with showing identification (see voter ID).

Author
bill_jackson
Date
2010-09-23T09:46:05-06:00
ID
159938
Comment

Donna- I have said this many times on here I don't have anything against immigrants, much like Scott I owe my life to immigrant doctors and nurses, because 99% of them at the cancer center are immigrants. I welcome anybody that wants to immigrate, LEGALLY. I have no problem with a cop asking a any person about there citizenship (including me), because that basiclly going to be seeing their drivers license or SS card it not got to be some Gestapo questioning. If cops asking a few harmless questions in unconstitutional, does that mean when they ask somebody they think has been drinking and driving, if they been drinking, they violate their rights?

Author
BubbaT
Date
2010-09-23T11:34:46-06:00
ID
159940
Comment

I've heard (I could be wrong) that the main reason a lot of police discourage inquiry about immigration status is that it causes immigrants, whether legal or illegal, to avoid the police because they fear deportation. This causes problems when police try to conduct an investigation. Immigrants generally live in poor areas with a high crime rate, and are often required upon to provide information about crimes (done by other illegal immigrants) and to occassionally testify. If they even have the slightest concern on if they will be deported, they will not cooperate with the police, allowing criminals to remain free and rob Bubba. You don't want to be robbed because of your stance do you Bubba? I'm sure you will respond with something, "If they try to rob me, they won't live to regret it." What about your children? What if there is some Mexican child molestor, here legally, running around moletsing your kids but he can't be caught because his immigrant neigbors, who have witnessed him molest on several occassions, are afraid to communicate with the police?

Author
DrumminD21311
Date
2010-09-23T12:24:42-06:00
ID
159942
Comment

Bill, I think you're out of touch on your conservatism. It has long supposedly been a conservative tenet that we don't need the government meddling into our personal business, and asking us for ID when it's not needed. I happen to agree with that, but I do have some classical conservative tendencies. Bubba, the drinking/driving example is a false analogy. I'll let you figure out why. And I guess it would fly right past you for me to point out that just because you don't mind police officers asking you about your citizenship whenever they want does not mean that it is not an un-American concept.

Author
DonnaLadd
Date
2010-09-23T12:58:29-06:00
ID
159956
Comment

Drummin- Most criminal illegal aliens prey upon other illegal aliens because like you said they don't got to the police because they are scared, I don't think I have much to worry about there, and yes I will fight back,I not going to give up what's mine without a fight. I am very carefull about where my daughters go. Never anywhere alone, always in a group. I watch out for my daughtters very carefully. Already reported two child molestors for hanging out around the schools. I don't need illegal aliens to protect my children I can do that very well myself.

Author
BubbaT
Date
2010-09-23T14:12:20-06:00
ID
160040
Comment

Eric, you describe the road untraveled for Republicans. George W. Bush certainly tried to move the party in another direction, for he could see the demographic writing on the wall in a state like Texas, where he got many Latino votes. Immigration reform was one of several legislative failures in his second term. In fact, the right wing of his own party rose up against him. Now, Republicans have done with Latinos what they did with blacks a long time ago. That is, they have managed to alienate an entire group of people, all to satisfy the resentment of their white base. Nativism is the new racism. It is a short-sighed strategy, because angry whites are in rapid decline, while the Latino vote is only going to grow in importance. The Southern Strategy helped Republicans win elections--for a while. But it has become an anchor around their necks. Seventy percent of Bush's electoral votes came from states of the Confederacy, which is not a sustainable national political strategy. This latest paroxysm of nativism is only going to exacerbate that problem. The Republicans can kiss much of the Southwest and West good bye, at least in the long term.

Author
Brian C Johnson
Date
2010-09-27T15:23:28-06:00
ID
160041
Comment

Good point, Brian. We should give Bush credit where it's due. He was actually smart on this issue. But his recognition of reality didn't provide a good wedge issue for other Republicans who hadn't risen quite as far on the political totem pole. And you're right: Whent he Latino vote does grow, it is now very unlikely to turn Republican. What a missed political opportunity, considering the conservative social values of many immigrants.

Author
DonnaLadd
Date
2010-09-27T15:30:20-06:00
ID
160050
Comment

Ariba la raza! When are we gonna get our first Mexican president? Is he gonna open the gates and let all the Mexicans in, the way Obama is turning the country into a Muslim nation-state? Bet me money, in 20 years, we're getting a Latin candidate, and Fox News will claim he's going to open the borders every night. He will also allegedly have ties to the Mexican Mafia and La Costa Nostra as well as some communist revolutionaries living in the jungles of the Yucatan. I just predicted the future. Save this for posterity.

Author
DrumminD21311
Date
2010-09-27T17:35:37-06:00

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