Tags: Immigration | de blasio | immigration | order | mayors

De Blasio Gathers Mayors to Support Obama Immigration Order

Monday, 08 December 2014 08:28 PM

New York Mayor Bill de Blasio and 17 mayors from Seattle to Atlanta pledged to share expertise on implementing President Barack Obama's executive order providing relief for undocumented immigrants.

De Blasio, a self-described progressive and the first Democrat to run City Hall in 20 years, convened a summit Monday at Gracie Mansion, the mayoral residence on the Upper East Side. The city executives signed on to his "five-point challenge," a plan that includes creating a mayoral "war room" to share strategies, safeguarding immigrants from fraudulent services and reaching eligible applicants through community outreach and public education.

"The voices of mayors really haven't been heard in the immigration debate," de Blasio told reporters after the meeting. "There's a sleeping giant here of American mayors representing tens of millions of people."

Since winning election in the biggest landslide by a non- incumbent in city history last year, de Blasio, 53, has sought to champion progressive policies on a national stage. After Democrats were routed in elections across the U.S. last month, he wrote an article for the Huffington Post website saying candidates who lost didn't promote pro-worker policies. He's convened meetings of like-minded mayors and addressed the U.K. Labour Party's annual conference in Manchester, where he decried income inequality.

Republicans Sue

Mayors in attendance included Kasim Reed of Atlanta, Edward Murray of Seattle, Edwin Lee of San Francisco, Toni Harp of New Haven, Connecticut, Ralph Becker of Salt Lake City and Javier Gonzales of Santa Fe, New Mexico.

The gathering comes five days after 17 states -- 15 of them led by Republican governors -- filed a lawsuit in federal court in Brownsville, Texas, to block the president's executive order, calling it an unconstitutional use of presidential power.

Obama's actions will provide work permits to as many as 5 million undocumented immigrants, allowing them to stay in the U.S. temporarily.

To qualify, undocumented immigrants must pass a background check, have lived in the country for at least five years and have a child who is a citizen. The program also expanded eligibility for so-called Dreamers who arrived as children prior to 2010.

"We came here today to act, to be decisive and to hear our colleagues literally on the front line," Atlanta's Reed said.

Local Tone

As federal immigration legislation has languished, states and cities have tried to implement their own policies, said Heide Castaneda, an associate professor of anthropology at the University of South Florida in Tampa who studies immigrant communities.

"It's the local jurisdictions that frame the living experience of immigrants," Castaneda said Monday in an interview. "Local coalitions, city leaders, civic leaders actually set the political tone for welcome or resisting the presence of immigrants and implementing services or offering different types of opportunities."

San Francisco has extended health-care benefits to undocumented immigrants even as the Affordable Care Act restricts them from coverage.

Cities have learned lessons from the Obama administration's Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, which began in 2012, Castaneda said.

Deportation Relief

DACA granted deportation relief for immigrants who arrived as children and were under the age of 31 as of June 2012. About 55 percent of the 1.2 million people who immediately met the program's criteria have applied, according to an estimate by the Migration Policy Institute, a nonprofit based in Washington.

A study by Castaneda's colleagues identified barriers to signing up, including the application fee and a lack of trust in government, she said.

"Learning from the people who didn't apply is really key," she said.

Cities should work with community-based organizations to provide legal clinics for applicants and to prevent price gouging by those who help immigrants complete applications.

Mayors could also become a stronger part of the immigration debate by showing that the executive order is only a temporary stop-gap and advocating for more comprehensive change. The executive order doesn't provide a path to citizenship or access to Obamacare, Castaneda said.

"There's a lot of things that are still left to be done," she said.

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New York Mayor Bill de Blasio and 17 mayors from Seattle to Atlanta pledged to share expertise on implementing President Barack Obama's executive order providing relief for undocumented immigrants.
de blasio, immigration, order, mayors
Monday, 08 December 2014 08:28 PM
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