This past Friday, President of the United States and all-around horrible waste of human flesh (I’m running out of fun nicknames, here) Donald J. Trump launched fifty-nine Tomahawk missiles at an air base in Syria. The assault, which killed seven Syrian soldiers and nine civilians (four of whom were children), came in response to a chemical attack on the village of Khan Shaykhun on April 4th, 2017, most likely perpetrated by the forces of Syrian President Bashar Assad.
I could go on and on about the president’s response to what was undeniably a horrific and inhumane attack on Syrian lives. There are layers upon layers of problems that have arisen as a result of Friday’s attack, on top of what is already an incredibly complex conflict. In the coming days, months, and likely years, we as a country will have to grapple with whether or not the president’s actions were domestically or internationally just.
But the fact is, the attack itself is over and done. The strike was the United States’ first direct assault on Syrian forces in the more than six years the Syrian Civil War has devastated the country and much of its neighbors. As a result, we don’t have any sort of moral high ground to stay neutral anymore, if we ever truly did. Our country’s involvement in the conflict has escalated to the point where it is painfully hypocritical to throw up our hands and say “America first” when refugees come to us seeking asylum from a country that we have now deliberately bombed. But perhaps even more than this, we have a commitment to protect those who are already here, those who plainly do not have the option to “go back where they came from.”
My argument is this: the city of Kalamazoo must follow in example of New York, Los Angeles, Miami, and others by definitively declaring itself to be a sanctuary city, especially now, in the age of Trump. To do so would not be without precedent, not even in the state of Michigan – in fact, The Detroit News reports that the Lansing City Council voted unanimously to designate itself as such just last week. What’s more, numerous residents of Kalamazoo have shown their support for such a stance; several hundred gathered at Bronson Park on February 5th to protest Trump’s Muslim ban, holding signs and even welcome mats advocating against federal immigration policy. Likewise, a number of Kalamazoo city officials have made statements indicating their intent to protect undocumented immigrants and refugees; the Department of Public Safety Chief Jeff Hadley stated that Kalamazoo law enforcement has no “interest” in enforcing federal law that would deport or bar people from entering the country, while MLive reports City Commissioners Matt Milcarek and Shannon Sykes called on the city government to oppose Trump’s Muslim ban mere hours after it was enacted, calling it “injustice and authoritarian rule.”
Should we choose to declare ourselves a sanctuary city, there will, of course, be backlash. Attorney General and noted MLK-hating racist Jeff Sessions has already made threats to cut funds to sanctuary cities, and there is nothing to suggest Kalamazoo would be somehow exempt from these punishments if we were to take a stand. But we as a city have already made it clear that our values lie on the side of what is morally responsible. If the White House will not take responsibility for those human lives displaced by its most recent attack, then Kalamazoo, indeed every city across the country, should stand up and make up for the compassion the Trump administration has shown to lack, time and time again. We are already on the right track – we need only make it official.