Sometime it takes a little reminder about why you’re doing something that may be a little complicated, even unpopular with some people, but ultimately is the right thing to do. In this case, that little reminder came in the form of 7-year-old Angel Gonzalez of Middletown.
After nearly a year of mulling, discussing, debating and listening to residents’ views on creating a city ID card, the Middletown Common Council last week approved a resolution to have legislation creating the program ready for consideration within a month.
Saying, “We’re not going to move forward until we move forward,” Council President Miguel Rodrigues made it clear he wasn’t closing the meeting without such a commitment and demanded a resolution. His call to action came on the heels of Angel’s call for “everyone to be together and live with everyone, so nobody can be alone.”
The last of a dozen speakers inquiring about the progress of the program, Angel said, “I want to say that we want our country to be nice and not bad … So we want everyone to be together, and we’re a family.” His proud father, Victor, stood beside him.
Family. Together. Nice. Simple words. Some would say cliche. But really, isn’t that what the ID program is all about? It is one antidote to the toxic Trump administration policy, ruthlessly enforced by the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency, of arrest, separation and deportation of undocumented immigrants, regardless of their connection to family and contribution to community and instead of any program leading to citizenship.
The Middletown ID, while designed to promote city pride and involvement, would also provide much-needed photo ID for city residents who have difficulty obtaining them, including undocumented residents. It would make them part of the Middletown family.
As Mayor Joe DeStefano explained at the meeting, “I think what we’re trying to do is make their life here easier, so they can go to the dog park with their dog. So they can go to Thrall Park or Davidge Park and rent a pavilion.” It would also help in opening a bank account, getting utility service and other normally routine tasks for law-abiding residents.
DeStefano said if a court ordered the city to turn over information an undocumented immigrant used to obtain the card he hoped the city would challenge the order. That implies he hoped the Council would agree with him on that.
In a related matter involving undocumented immigrants — the recent arrest and deportation by ICE of 30-year resident Toribio Cervantes — the mayor said city police did not share any information on Cervantes with ICE. He said police will continue to enforce any judicial warrant signed by a judge, but will not help enforce federal detainee warrants. They will not, in other words, become an arm of ICE, turning routine traffic stops into deportation proceedings.
It’s a matter of trust. Police rely on the trust of residents. In supporting the ID program, undocumented immigrants in the city are placing their trust in the hands of police and the words of elected officials. As Angel said, “We want our country to be nice and not bad. Family.”