New York City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito argued that immigrants have had a net positive effect on New York at a talk on sanctuary cities at the Tenement Museum in the Lower East Side this week.
“Here we are in New York, with a strong economy, creation of jobs, low crime and we’re being told that every undocumented immigrant is creating havoc …it’s not real. We know the vast majority who are here, who are undocumented, contribute positively…and that is a reality which is born out in facts,” said the speaker.
Mark-Viverito, who also serves as Council member for the 8th District, said New York’s sanctuary city status makes it a safer place to live because immigrants are encouraged to contribute to the economy and cooperate with the NYPD, as opposed to the situation in non-sanctuary cities where undocumented immigrants live “in the shadows.”
Over the past few years, New York has worked in partnership with the NYPD to roll out a range of laws that govern how the city’s Department of Corrections and NYPD officers interact with law-abiding undocumented immigrants.
“Now this administration…is threatening what we fought to achieve in this city. We have laws in place that encourage people to cooperate with law enforcement to make the city safer. It’s a benefit to everyone in the community.”
In response to the common misconception that sanctuary cities are places where the rule of law is suspended for undocumented aliens, Mark-Viverito said that there are 170 felonies that could result in deportation if committed by an undocumented immigrant in New York.
“Our policies are designed to respect those who are law-abiding, and those who are not, we are not going to protect you,” Mark-Viverito said.
She added that the Trump administration is currently scapegoating undocumented immigrants to distract from larger issues at play in America, such as gun violence and the unemployment rate.
“This administration is diverting attention from where we have to focus—if we’re talking about violence in our communities, we should be looking at our gun laws. If we’re talking about job creation, Trump saying the undocumented are stealing jobs is a way to distract from the fact that he has to create the jobs he has promised,” she said.
The New York Tenement Museum held the panel to discuss what it means to be a sanctuary city and how New Yorkers can support and protect immigrant rights during a Trump administration.