Dear Mr. President,
The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday, March 3 made a good call in deciding against hearing appeals filed by the towns of Farmers Branch, Texas, and Hazleton, Pa., which were seeking to overturn appeals court rulings over ordinances that, among other things, required tenants to provide identification that could later be verified with immigration authorities and that penalized landlords for renting to illegal immigrants.
In doing so, the justices left intact the appeals court rulings that said the ordinances were trumped by federal immigration law and avoided wading into the divisive issue of immigration reform as efforts continue to be stalled in the U.S. House of Representatives, essentially by one man, Speaker John Boehner.
But while the political football on the House level continues to be waged, the court’s decision, Mr. President, puts light on what states can do at the local levels. Chief among them, I feel, is granting some form of identification to undocumented migrants living and working in states. Last Thursday, Feb. 27, the Black Institute teamed up with Black clergy and several city lawmakers in Brooklyn, N.Y., to call attention to this issue and urge for driver’s licenses and municipal ID cards to be issued to these workers.
According to estimates, there are over 600,000 undocumented immigrants in the state of New York and over 500,000 in New York City alone, many of whom are from Latin America and the Caribbean. Advocates say the issue is a matter of public safety, especially for Black and Latino immigrants without legal working papers, who face being stopped by police officers more than many other ethnic groups in the city.
Mayor Bill de Blasio made this a campaign promise during his run for the office last year, and now he’s tasked his new immigrant affairs commissioner, Nisha Agarwal, with establishing a municipal ID for undocumented immigrants.
Now, Mr. President, it’s time to call your friend, Gov. Andrew Cuomo, and urge him, like former Gov. Elliot Spitzer did, to take out his pen and issue an executive order allowing anyone who can drive in New York the ability to apply for a driver’s license without questions about one’s immigration status. It is imperative that New York follow the 12 other states, including Washington, D.C., that already have moved progressively ahead on this. Whatever can be done at the state and local level to ease the burdens of the undocumented population must be done, and the way to use your phone is to get Democratic governors to push this agenda, even as you urge the scaling back of deportation.
While you and Boehner engage in “healthy discussions” over immigration reform, the lives of millions continue to be in limbo. Solutions need to be found that can bring relief now.
It’s time for you to move on stopping the deportation and urging state leadership to do all they can to help now!
The writer is CMO of Hard Beat Communications, which owns the brands News Americas Now, CaribPR Wire and Invest Caribbean Now.