API Resistance Calls on Rockville to Protect Immigrant Rights

As Asian and Pacific Islander people, we support the sanctuary city movement, including Rockville’s proposed “Fostering Community Trust” ordinance and the Maryland Trust Act. We are disappointed and deeply concerned to see some Chinese and Chinese American groups speaking out against the ordinance. Join us in calling for the passage of Ordinance 11–3 at the Rockville City Council Public Hearing on April 17th.

The “Fostering Community Trust” amendment protects our immigrant families and neighbors by (1) prohibiting city officials from requesting immigration status unless required by law, (2) discouraging city officials from disclosing residents’ immigration status, (3) ensuring anyone can access city services regardless of immigration status, and (4) limiting local law enforcement cooperation with federal immigration authorities. Although they are limited interventions in the detention and deportation machine, these policies are needed to keep all members of our community safe.

We call upon our Chinese siblings opposing the Ordinance and Trust Act to remember that American citizenship has historically been rooted in exclusion, steeped in racism, and enforced by state-sanctioned violence. Immigration laws that today restrict our undocumented, Latinx, and Muslim siblings — and disproportionately impact Black immigrant communities— have historically limited our own community’s freedom.

In 1882, the Chinese Exclusion Act suspended Chinese immigration as the first U.S. immigration law to target a specific ethnicity. Chinese immigrants were scapegoated for post-Civil War unemployment. Fear of undocumented Chinese immigrants led to the detention of 50,000 Chinese people at Angel Island in San Francisco, California between 1910–1940 and the creation of a registry for Chinese immigrants in the 1950s.

Accusations of criminality and unemployment — which are used to justify detention and deportation of undocumented people today — are the same false narratives that were used to restrict the free movement of Chinese people in the 1900s. Today, there are an estimated 1.6 million undocumented Asian immigrants — more than 260,000 of them Chinese immigrants. In Maryland, there are 37,000 undocumented Asian immigrants who comprise 16% of Maryland’s undocumented immigrant population. Our history is one example of how American immigration policies have always supported the racist status quo at the expense of communities of color, including immigrant communities.

Even when immigration policies have temporarily supported our communities — like the amnesty policies for Chinese immigrants after Tiananmen Square — we recognize that these are exceptions. These exceptions are temporary, unequally distributed, and can be revoked at the discretion of those in power.

We support policies that limit local police cooperation with federal law enforcement, not because we believe in “community policing,” but because we believe no one should be unjustly detained or deported because they have a record. We believe that every immigrant — regardless of documentation, criminal record, or family status — has the right to government services, and the right to move, remain, and return.

Because sanctuary city policies are an insufficient intervention, we also call upon the Rockville City Council and the Maryland State Legislature to invest in communities instead of the police. Military, immigration, and criminal justice systems are all interconnected and rooted in the same militarized force that does not make our communities safer. Our police state only protects the safety of the wealthy, white elite at the cost of communities of color, especially our Black, Muslim, and queer and trans women siblings.

We urge Asian American and Pacific Islander folk to join us on April 17, 2017 at 7:30pm at the Rockville City Office Building (111 Maryland Avenue) to rally with undocumented, immigrant, Black, and/or Muslim folk in the DMV area for our collective liberation.

Asian and Pacific Islander (API) Resistance is a collective of API peoples in Washington, D.C., committed to challenging anti-Black racism, white supremacy, Islamophobia, imperialism, and capitalism.

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