This is the transcript of my testimony to the Pittsburgh City Council in support of the Pittsburgh Sanctuary City Coalition’s campaign.
Thank you to the members of the City Council. I’m Jonathan Sterling and I live in Shadyside, and I’m a PhD student at Carnegie Mellon University. I’m here to express to you today my support for the Sanctuary City initiative in Pittsburgh.
When I stood in front of the city hall on May First, I was pleased to see conspicuous banners promoting Pittsburgh’s intention to be a welcoming city to immigrants. But my friends and colleagues, and the people I serve, are more familiar with a different Pittsburgh.
The Pittsburgh that we know about is the city that transformed a simple traffic violation into a family-wrecking deportation. I am of course referring to the case of Martín Esquivel-Hernandez, a beloved community leader who was torn from his wife Alma and three small children in February by ICE stormtroopers.
This is the very picture of a city which embraces immigrants in form, but is in the objective reality undertaking a relentless assault on immigrants and their families. Together, we have got to change this.
That’s why I, together with my brothers and sisters here today, demand that our city adopt the Sanctuary City legislation, and end definitively the shameful collusion of Pittsburgh law enforcement with ICE. It’s not enough to say or chant, “Immigrants are welcome here”. It’s not enough to allude to unpublished police policies that have no legal status and induce no public accountability.
We, the residents of the city of Pittsburgh, say that it is time to replace the purely symbolic measures with practical ones. We’re going to replace banners and slogans and lawn signs with bills, and laws, and legally-binding policies. We’re going to replace detention and deportation with substantive protection for immigrants and their families from the out of control state forces.
We call on you to join together with us, and act as the true deputies of Pittsburgh’s vulnerable immigrant and working class communities, and support Sanctuary City legislation.
Thank you very much for your time and attention.
These remarks were written after the hearing in response to the comments of Councilperson Dan Gilman.
Councilperson Dan Gilman reminded those in attendance that it was not Pittsburgh’s police that picked up Martín; however, we regard this as beside the point. Councilperson Gilman further claims that his January legislation already largely accounts for the concerns of the Sanctuary City Coalition, which is patently not the case as can be seen from his press release here.
Even the Pittsburgh PD policy which bars police from asking people about immigration status would not necessarily have prevented this horrific outcome for Martín and his family, contrary to what Councilperson Gilman stated later in the hearing. We regard this incorrect conflation of an unpublished pig regulation with the actual demands of the Pittsburgh Sanctuary City Coalition to be nothing more than an attempt at misdirection by a liberal establishment intent on continuing the unprecedented Obama-era ruthless persecution of immigrants.
Returning to the bigger picture, it’s clear that the struggle is only just beginning. The objective enemies of immigrants and their working class allies have not yet begun to bare their teeth, preferring to attack through soft words and rhetoric which is left in form, but right in essence. We’re ready and dedicated to pursue this until the end, to the highest levels.
We don’t have the money or support of any establishment party; we don’t have the backing of the NGO-industrial complex or the “human rights” racket, or the numerous crypto-comprador cliques which compete for resources. What we have is more powerful than that, which is an unclouded political line and the dedication to carry it through.