Commentary

Ron Jacobs: Sanctuary status a human rights issue, not financial

Editor’s note: This commentary is by Ron Jacobs, of Winooski, who is a library worker and the author of several books, most recently “Daydream Sunset: 60s Counterculture in the ’70s” and “Can We Escape the Eternal Flame?”

A few short days after Donald Trump moved into the White House, he issued an executive fiat imposing a “moratorium” on granting visas to human beings from certain nations — all of them predominantly Muslim. In addition, he began the process to build his wall on the Mexican border, halted the resettlement of refugees from the civil war in Syria, and commanded federal agencies to look into defunding those U.S. cities and towns that have declared themselves sanctuaries for undocumented residents. Among those cities threatened by this administrative act of hatred and prejudice is Burlington, Vermont. Another Vermont city affected by the order was Rutland, which was forced to halt (at least temporarily) its plans to resettle Syrian refugees in that town.

Unlike other sanctuary cities like Boston and San Francisco, which immediately issued strong statements defending their status as sanctuaries and vowed to defy Trump’s dictatorial fiat, the response from officials in Burlington was considerably less strident. Although the city did promise to maintain its welcome mat to undocumented individuals and families living in the United States, the chair of the semi-official “welcoming committee,” Jane Knodell, was quoted in the local daily newspaper as saying, “We’ll have to be weighing the costs and the benefits.” Although this quote is somewhat ambiguous, I find the fact that the lives of other human beings are reduced to “costs and benefits” appalling, to say the least. Indeed, I am reminded of those in the war business who callously consider those civilians certain to be killed as nothing but “collateral damage.”

The fact that the supposedly progressive government of Burlington did not take a stand like that of Boston’s Mayor Walsh … is not just an embarrassment, it is a despicable denial of the principles most Burlingtonians pride themselves on and, more importantly, a retreat from the principle that all humans are welcome in that city.

 

This type of response ignores the essential reality of Trump’s order: It is a vicious attempt to deny that human beings of all skin tones, nationalities, religions and cultures, genders and ages have the right to be secure in their person. This is not a civil right; it is a human right. The fact that the supposedly progressive government of Burlington did not take a stand like that of Boston’s Mayor Walsh, who said in a news conference, “We will fight for our residents, whether immigrant or not, and provide the best quality of life for all Bostonians. I will use all of my power within lawful means to protect all Boston residents — even if that means using City Hall itself as a last resort” is not just an embarrassment, it is a despicable denial of the principles most Burlingtonians pride themselves on and, more importantly, a retreat from the principle that all humans are welcome in that city. Even more ominous, it portends a continual compromise with the protofascism that Trumpism represents. Any compromise with such forces should not be acceptable. Instead of “weighing costs and benefits,” Burlington should be joining those cities vigorously and vocally opposing any and all attempts by the Trump government that deny others their human rights. If we don’t stand up for the rights of immigrants, who will be the next target of the forces now in control in Washington, D.C.?

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  • Pete Novick

    Hollywood screenwriter:

    Hey boss, I got this great idea for a script for a Washington political thriller. See, there’s this really rocky transition from one president to the next and the new guy, a big narcissistic blowhard with a bad haircut, starts signing executive orders left and right, attacks people with veiled threats, gets really upset about crowd sizes, talks about building a fifty billion dollar wall to seal off Mexico, makes troubling changes to the office of the White House with little coordination, blindsides his own party in Congress, sets up a religious test for travel to the US for people from selected Muslim nations, fires a senior government official while accusing her of betrayal, and then stays up all hours of the night sending out hateful Tweets. What you you think?

    Hollywood producer:

    Geez, I don’t know. Sounds too far fetched – no one would believe it.

    • Stick around, Pete, your descriptive is only the movie trailer. The Big Show will be quite a bit worse.

      Here is the real queston: does The Donald suffer from malignant narcissism? A clinical psychiatric disorder characterized by the following:

      Anti-social behavior
      Sadism
      Aggressiveness
      Paranoia
      Grandiosity
      Entitled
      Regressed
      Manipulative
      Destructive
      Egocentric
      Use of projection
      Lack of conscience
      Narcissistic

      Now toss in lack of impulse control and no empathy for others, and you have a well-rounded man. Just lovely. The first week, at least, has been illuminating.

  • Walter Carpenter

    “If we don’t stand up for the rights of immigrants, who will be the next target of the forces now in control in Washington, D.C.?”

    Us.

    • Ian Wood

      Immigrants have rights?? What rights?? Please explain

      • Peter Everett

        People of foreign countries are not protected by US Constitutional Due Process. A process of vetting is set into place to protect the people of our country. Open borders sets up the possibility of admitting those who will not adapt or assimilate to the ways of our nation. No system is perfect, everyone will find fault, no matter what the resolution to the problem. What will someone, who fought for open borders say if a friend or family member were a victim of someone, not properly vetted? Would their stance change? Would they accuse government of being negligent in protecting residents. Funny how attitudes change when the situation becomes personal. Most never have to worry about this becoming personal. Why not ask families of 9/11, Fort Hood, San Bernadino their thoughts? They actually have lived through the horror, we haven’t. Sometimes the best of intentions have results, we later regret.

  • Mark Keefe

    Burlington has the opportunity to be the first sanctuary city in the US to make a real statement by sending back any federal funds received since the order was signed and refuse all funding going forward.

  • Zeke Rivers

    Libya, Sudan, Yemen and Somalia are all failed states with no leadership. Iran is the world’s leading sponsor of terrorism. Syria and Iraq are complete disasters, thanks to eight years of absent US leadership. All seven added together don’t amount to even eight percent of the world’s Muslim population.
    Apparently you missed the LA Times article from this week: “The lapse in vetting reportedly stems from a 2015 glitch that prevented U.S. authorities from gleaning possible “derogatory” information about the refugees at the time. The glitch prevented relevant personnel from searching CIA databases, which included potentially compromising information on refugees. New investigations include several dozen Syrian refugees, and began before President Trump took office.”

    • yet none of those charged with acts of terrorism since 2001 came from any of the countries on this list….

      • Jon Corrigan

        Simply not true – here’s two of them:

        ‘Two Iraqi citizens living in Bowling Green, Ky., who admitted using improvised explosive devices (IEDs) against U.S. soldiers in Iraq and who attempted to send weapons and money to Al-Qaeda in Iraq (AQI) for the purpose of killing U.S. soldiers, were sentenced today to serve federal prison terms by Senior Judge Thomas B. Russell in U.S. District Court for the Western District of Kentucky.’

        U.S. Department of Justice, 29 January, 2013

        Don’t you people do any of your own research?

    • Paul Richards

      Authorities did not even look at the Facebook activity of the San Bernardino terrorists until after the fact. Makes a lot of sense…