When Rudolph Giuliani was first elected as New York City Mayor, a group of us met with his staff during the transition to talk about immigrant issues in the city. First on the agenda was an executive order, issued under Mayor Dinkins, which guaranteed that all city services would be provided to all New Yorkers, regardless of immigration status.
Giuliani was the law and order candidate, and we honestly had no idea how our agenda would be received. But as former DA, and strong advocate for the police, Giuliani understood how important it was that all crimes are reported in order to effectively apprehend and convict criminals. And so re-issuing the executive order was one of his first acts as mayor.
One out of every three New Yorkers is an immigrant!
Read about immigrants in 21st century NYC
Go ahead and think this through for a minute. Let’s say that there is a rapist in your NYC neighborhood. Let’s say his first victim is a woman who is living in the city with an expired tourist visa. Because she is out of status, she will certainly not go to the police station to report the rape if walking into a police station means that she could be deported.
Let’s say the next victim was a young woman who had been brought over to the US by her parents as a child. She is in the country illegally. And if she is afraid to go to the police, then the police don’t know that there are any rapes being committed in the neighborhood.
The third victim is a US citizen. She reports the rape to the police. But she is traumatized, and provides very little useful information. She took a shower when she got home, so there is no DNA. The rapist is white, medium height, medium build, late 20’s, early 30’s, brown hair. Like hundreds of men in the neighborhood. The police have nothing to go on.
The next two victims are also afraid to go to the police, due to their immigration status. Unlike the previous victims, these women were beaten badly. One of them got a really good look at him. Thinks she has seen him in the local laundromat. But the police never get this information. And the violence is escalating.
The next victim reports it to the police, but there is no compelling evidence to link this rape with the previously reported rape. Unlike the first woman, this victim was beaten severely. He cut her face with a knife. There is a serial rapist in the neighborhood. And the police don’t even know it.
If all of the women had reported their assaults, then at this point the police would have sketches of the rapist circulating in the neighborhood. They would have looked at all of the cases, and found common threads. Where and when he usually attacks. How he attacks. They might have even caught him before he attacked the most recent victim.
Immigrants have been arriving in New York City for 400 years
Giuliani understood this. When the undocumented are afraid to walk into a police station and report a crime, it puts everyone in danger.
And so Mayor Giuliani, and then later Mayor Bloomberg, and then later Mayor de Blasio, all issued executive orders stating that all New York City residents are entitled to access all city services, regardless of immigration status. And that under no circumstances, should New York City employees, like the police or the firefighters, question anyone about their immigration status.
These policies have kept New York City safe for decades. Reversing these policies would put all New Yorkers in danger.
And even if you are a xenophobic racist who thinks you are entitled to more rights than someone who has fled war or poverty or oppression in search of a better life, you are SAFER when the undocumented can walk into a police station and report a crime without fear of deportation.
That is one of the many reasons that New York is a “sanctuary city.” And we will continue to be.
Photo by Bruce Armstrong