LAURA WASHINGTON: What about sanctuary for us?


Sanctuary for whom? African-Americans are asking.

The welfare of Chicago’s growing immigrant class has become a fevered priority for the city’s powers.

Black folks noticed when Mayor Rahm Emanuel called on the Illinois legislature to enact an “Illinois Dreamers Bill of Rights,” named for the so-called “Dreamers” — undocumented young immigrants brought to this country by their parents.

OPINION

Emanuel and other leading Democrats are pushing for state-sponsored benefits for the Dreamers, including financial aid and scholarships, certifications and licenses to enhance their employment opportunities, and other policies to shield them from deportation.

African-Americans watched the mayor as he cheerily rang the back-to-school bell Tuesday, at the Solorio Academy on the city’s Southwest Side. Nearly a third of its students are undocumented, the Chicago Sun-Times reported.

Black people heard Emanuel declare Chicago a “Trump Free Zone,” pledging to keep immigrants safe from President Donald Trump’s pledge to ramp up deportations.

Last week, Trump announced that he would end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, which has allowed people who illegally entered the country as children to enjoy deferred action from deportation and work eligibility.

So we took note when Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan joined with 15 other states in a federal lawsuit aimed at blocking Trump’s plan to end DACA.

Trump is violating the constitutional rights of the state’s 42,000 DACA participants, Madigan argues. Losing them to deportation, she said, would deprive the state’s economy of  approximate $2.3 billion, including nearly $55 million in local and state tax revenue..

“To deport Dreamers to countries foreign to them is fundamentally unfair, hurts our state economy and violates the law,” Madigan said in a press release.  “These are Americans in every way but their birthright. For centuries, our country has benefited from immigrants who came here and worked hard for a better life.”

For months, Democratic Party leaders have spread the sanctuary gospel.  They pledge to protect the undocumented, at all costs, financial or political. It’s the right and just response to a Trump presidency, they say, that spreads fear and loathing throughout the land.

“There is a palpable sense of fear that the United States government could rip these kids from their own parents,” the Sun-Times quoted Emanuel as saying.

African-Americans are sympathetic to the plight of the undocumented. But inquiring black minds wonder: What about sanctuary for us?

Their comments populate my Facebook feed, such as a recent missive from Dianne Scott.

“Clearly black people have been written off by the Democratic Party,” Scott writes. “Institutional racism has led to an underclass of black people who have been locked out of the ‘dream’ this DACA group is given support and resources to pursue. The narrative now is we can’t do without these illegal immigrants!”

For decades, black folks have sought sanctuary from the ceaseless gun violence ravaging our neighborhoods.

We desperately crave refuge from the long march of black men who have been murdered and maimed by police brutality and misconduct, as our political “leaders” looked the other way.

Black folks vainly seek salvation from economically crippled communities where poverty is pervasive and economic options are slim to none.

Black people don’t begrudge help for their immigrant brothers and sisters. People of color are in this together, striving and sweating under the vicious heel of bigotry.

But black voters, the Democratic Party’s most loyal constituency, wonder: What about sanctuary for us?

Send letters to: letters@suntimes.com.

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