Mayor Jorge Elorza announced his intention to stand in solidarity with New York and Los Angeles to make Providence a city that will not enforce Donald Trump‘s anti-immigration policies. But some thought he gave himself too much wriggle room with his commitment to pass the Community Safety Act.
“Because of Tuesday’s results, I am convinced that the work we do at the local level is more essential than ever, to safeguarding the values that define us as a people,” said Elorza to a crowd of about 1000 people gathered at the inaugeral meeting of Resist Hate RI at Hope High School Saturday evening to consider how to deal with the new reality of a Donald Trump presidency.
“We cannot stand idly, as members of our community are cruelly bullied, targeted and scapegoated on the national stage,” continued Elorza.
Elorza early on experienced some push back from some in the crowd, who accused him of being interested in only some of the city’s residents. “But you only protect the rich,” said a voice.
The heckling disturbed others gathered around to hear the mayor, and blunted the effect of Elorza’s speech, which sought a unifying tone. While the mayor talked inclusion, those who have suffered exclusion under the laws and the policies of the city were pushing back. When Elorza spoke about the Providence Police Department, shouts of “Fuck the Police!” greeted him, even though he was promising to instruct the department to not enforce immigration policies.
There was a verbal altercation between those who wanted to challenge the mayor and those that wanted to silence their challenge. Ultimately the situation was diffused in the moment, though stark differences remain.
Elorza said that each week between now and inauguration day, “the city will be announcing a new policy, a new initiative and an event aimed at measuring our most vulnerable and marginalized residents that our city values them and stays with them.”
“These initiatives and discussions,” promised Elorza, “will take on issues of local immigration reform, implicit and embedded racism, criminal justice reform, police/community relations, environmental justice, and support for women and families, muslims and religious minorities, and the LGBTQ community.”
Elorza provided a “sampling” of announcements he expects to make over the coming weeks.
- Over the past days Elorza has been in touch with Mayor Bill De Blasio of New York City and Mayor Eric Garcetti of Los Angeles, “and I told them that we are standing together,” said the mayor. “The Providence Police Department, as long as I am mayor, will not enforce immigration policies.”
- Elorza’s team is in the process of coming up with municipal ID’s “that have been very successful in other immigrant friendly cities.”
- Welcoming centers in our schools, so that “new arrivals and new immigrants can be onboarded so that when they come into our schools, they can be prepared and ready to learn.”
- Elorza’s team is in the process of moving to paid maternal leave for all city workers.
- Elorza will be hosting a screening of the documentary 13th, an exploration of race and mass incarceration, along with a discussion after the film.
- On the issue of homelessness, Eloisa promises to follow his plans, one that he says “begins with compassion.”
- City officials and community leaders will be gong through a training on undoing racism.
Perhaps the most controversial part of Elorza’s plans was his promise to introduce the Community Safety Act (CSA) to the city council between now and inauguration day. As I was reminded immediately after Elorza’s speech, the CSA has already been introduced. It simply needs to be passed. There is worry that Elorza might want to submit an altered, weakened CSA for passage.
[Update November 14: The mayor just released the following statement:
“In the wake of last week’s election I have been in touch with mayor’s from throughout the country who have similar inclusive and diverse communities like Providence. We are standing with cities like Los Angles and New York City who have made it clear that we will not sacrifice a single resident and we will continue to protect our communities. It is important that every resident can live their lives without fear of being persecuted. We will continue enforcing our current policy to ensure that law-abiding residents can do just that regardless of inconsequential civil infractions. In Providence, we are truly stronger when we’re together and I will work to protect every resident who feels uncertain of our nation’s future.”]