In late January Boulder joined dozens of other cities around the country when City Council approved an ordinance to affirm Boulder’s status as a sanctuary city in opposition to the immigration policies being promoted by the Trump administration. On Friday, March 5, various organizations came together at Boulder’s Shine restaurant to thank the city for its courageous stand.
Mayor Suzanne Jones told KGNU’s Roz Brown that since City Council passed the ordinance to make Boulder a sanctuary city she’s received only a handful of complaints and more letters of support for the issue than other issue in recent history.
“I feel that it was an important stance for us to take as a community and reflects well on our country’s ideals,” said Jones.
The sanctuary city celebration was hosted by the Colorado Immigrant Rights Coalition (CIRC) and INVST – a leadership training program at CU for young people who are interested in social and environmental justice. Event co-organizer Alicia Conte got involved in the INVST program while a freshman at CU.
“We want to make our community more inclusive, safe and cohesive,” said Conte. “This is as much a celebration as a call for action. We hope people here will see each other and come together so when we need to mobilize and organize we’ll know who is standing next to us and we can reach out to them.”
A city’s declaration as a sanctuary is mostly symbolic. There’s no official definition of the term, but communities identifying as such generally refuse to comply with federal authorities by questioning, detaining or turning over people on the basis of immigration status. Longtime Boulder County educator and volunteer Margaret Alfonso isn’t bothered by the action being largely symbolic.
“Maybe it’s symbolic,” said Alfonso. “We can’t keep Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) from doing their job but it’s making a statement about what the community will and won’t tolerate and that we have to support our minority population that may be at risk. And I’m afraid that people will lose interest in this topic and it’s up to us to keep it alive. I’m a first generation Cuban and if we could remember that we’re all immigrants we wouldn’t be so quick to discriminate against other people.”
CU’s Invest Program Director Sabrina Sidaris also shared her family’s immigration story with the audience and says when we have family immigration stories we have a stake in the issue.
“This is not a flat policy issue that goes on in Washington,” said SIdaris. “It’s about our lives, the people we love, the people who live in our community and have a right to feel safe and protected.”
Mayor Jones says the city has had no further communication from the Trump administration following its threat to withhold federal funds to sanctuary cities – funds that total $8.5 million dollars in Boulder’s 2017 budget. Jones says she wants the immigrant community to know the city stands with them and the city will fight for their civil rights.
“There’s still a lot of work to do,” said Jones. “We need to do what we can politically and legally against those working for deportations”
In addition to CIRC and CU’s INVST, organizations participating in the celebration included the Inspired Dreamers @ CU, Intercambio, GENESISTER of Boulder County Public Health, Philanthropiece Foundation, the law clinic at CU, the School of Education, CU Engage, Motus Theatre and Roka Hueka.