Sunday, May 6, 2018

A Reminder of Why I Support 'Sanctuary Cities'

This weekend was the opening of the tourist season for the organization for which I work, the weekend when the seasonal employees and contractors come back to the site. Our porter/janitor is on a Monday to Friday schedule, so the weekend janitorial duties are outsourced to a cleaning contractor. Yesterday, at the end of my shift, the custodial contractor, who has been assigned to the site for two years running, arrived on the job. He is a originally from Peru, and he is an intelligent, diligent, and conscientious man, hard-working and well-spoken, even if he isn't entirely fluent in English (my Spanish is pretty good, and I have had numerous conversations with him about current events and politics). Needless to say, I was happy to see him after a hiatus of six months.

After we had exchanged greetings, he told me a depressing tale. He lives in the nearby city of White Plains, a city which traditionally had the reputation of being mainly a place where people worked, but has grown dramatically in population recently (still, the city's population swells by 200,000 every workday). The city is generally safe, but like all cities, there is some crime. His other job, his weekday job, is doing custodial work in one of the big buildings downtown. Last week, while walking home from work, he was mugged- a large man punched him in the side of the head and stole his cellphone and the bag containing his dirty workclothes. In the course of the attack, my friend fell to the ground, luckily catching himself on his forearms, rather than putting his arms out straight- he had bruises and some cuts, but no breaks.

After recounting his mugging, he spoke about the dangers faced by the many Latin immigrant workers on the night shifts- especially the restaurant workers- waitstaff, bussers, and barbacks who get paid in cash. They are tempting targets for alley-bashers and strongarm crooks, especially since there is a perception that they will be afraid to contact the police. 'Sanctuary city' status is crucial in combating violent crime, as undocumented witnesses might be unwilling to report crimes or testify against defendants. Statistically, immigrants are less likely to engage in criminal activity than the native born, despite a few sensationalized cases of heinous crimes committed by people who should have been deported.

At any rate, this was a case of my personal convictions being bolstered by my lived experience- my immigrant friend was assaulted and robbed by a native-born American, and I sure hope he gets justice. He's okay now, but it was a scary experience which could have ended up in his death or serious injury. The old cliche is that a conservative is a liberal who has been mugged, but my liberalism has been reinforced by my friend's mugging.

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