New York will 'protect' immigrants, mayor tells Trump

By AFP/Catherine Triomphe   November 17, 2016 | 09:39 am GMT+7
New York will 'protect' immigrants, mayor tells Trump
New York's liberal mayor, Bill de Blasio. Photo by Reuters/Carlo Allegri/File Photo

'We will do all we can to protect our residents and to make sure that families are not torn apart.'

New York's liberal mayor, Bill de Blasio, told Donald Trump on Wednesday he will do all he can to prevent the large-scale deportation of immigrants, saying many in the city are "fearful" of his presidency.

After visiting Manhattan's Trump Tower -- where the billionaire president-elect is holed up assembling his cabinet -- De Blasio said he told the Republican he would push back against his signature pledge to deport millions of undocumented immigrants, and defend the American tradition of welcoming foreigners.

"I reiterated to him that this city and so many cities around the country will do all we can to protect our residents and to make sure that families are not torn apart," the Democrat told reporters.

De Blasio -- along with the mayors of Los Angeles, San Francisco, Chicago, Boston, Philadelphia and the U.S. capital Washington -- has declared his city a "sanctuary" for immigrants, vowing to protect the undocumented from deportation and extend public services regardless of their legal status.

Trump has vowed to deport or incarcerate up to three million undocumented immigrants with criminal records after he takes office on January 20. He has also pledged to end a program backed by President Barack Obama that shields from deportation people who arrived in the country as children.

De Blasio, a left-leaning Democrat who backed Trump's rival Hillary Clinton for the White House, said his stance "flew in the face of all that was great about New York City, the ultimate city of immigrants."

"The place that has succeeded because it was open for everyone, the place built of generation after generation of immigrants," he said.

Following Trump's election, de Blasio said the city would delete from its database the names of hundreds of thousands of undocumented immigrants who have received a city ID card, to stop the incoming administration from identifying or deporting them.

It was the latest in a string of confrontations between the two politicians.

Mayors "welcome the fight"

During the campaign de Blasio described the Republican candidate as "dangerous" and unqualified to lead the country. Trump, in turn, has called de Blasio "the worst mayor" in the United States.

However, de Blasio on Wednesday said their talk was "candid" and "respectful" and that he had stressed "that I would be open-minded as we continue substantive discussions but also vigilant."

After promising during his campaign to deport all of the estimated 11 million undocumented immigrants living in the United States, Trump said in an interview Sunday that he would instead focus on "the people that are criminal and have criminal records, gang members, drug dealers... out of our country" and work to "secure our border."

He also reaffirmed his promise to build a wall stretching across the nearly 2,000-mile (3,200-kilometer) border with Mexico, while accepting it may include some fencing.

Mirroring de Blasio's stance, Chicago's Democratic Mayor Rahm Emanuel said following Trump's interview that his city "is and will remain a sanctuary city," telling undocumented migrants that "you are safe, you are secure and you are supported in the city of Chicago."

Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti, also a Democrat, promised Trump that "if the first day, as president, we see something that is hostile to our people, hostile to our city, bad for our economy, bad for our security, we will speak up, speak out, act up and act out."

Trump has threatened to cut federal funds to such cities.

However, Jonathan Blazer, of the American Immigration Council, which advocates immigrants' rights, says municipal authorities aren't intimidated and even "welcome the fight."

"Politically they disagree" with Trump's agenda, he said. "But it's more than that, they believe they can win the fight politically and legally."

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