Tucson enjoyed a small dose of internet fame this past week, as a local man (#GreenShirtGuy) went viral after laughing at protesters opposing a ballot initiative that could make Tucson a sanctuary city.
But views and clicks will not determine the fate of the ballot. That will be up to voters this November.
Tucson Families Free & Together, the campaign to make Tucson a sanctuary city, began in December 2018 — but it wasn’t until July 3 that the People’s Defense Initiative, the organization that started the campaign, submitted thousands of signatures to get the petition on this November's ballot.
Exactly 9,241 signatures were needed, said Zaira Livier, executive director of People’s Defense Initiative and chair of Tucson Families Free & Together. The community-led group submitted double the signatures, around 18,000. Once reviewed by city officials, 17,403 of those signatures were found to be eligible, Livier said.
“To our knowledge, we are the first community in the country to push its own people-led initiative for sanctuary city policy in the history of this nation,” Livier said.
According to Livier, now more than ever, a sanctuary city is crucial because of the current political climate. If voters vote yes on making Tucson a sanctuary city, it will not only mean a lot for the migrant community, but also for the larger communities surrounding Tucson, Livier said.
According to the Arizona Daily Star, the City of Tucson has been an “Immigrant Welcoming City” since 2012. Though this welcoming gives immigrants some protection, the sanctuary city initiative would make a bigger impact if passed.
“Schools, hospitals, clinics and houses of worship will be off-limits from immigration enforcement,” Livier said. “New protections for victims of domestic violence and sexual assault, including children, and increased reporting of crimes that often go undetected.”
Additionally, 15-plus new civil rights and liberties will be implemented into law, according to Livier.
Tucson Families Free & Together, the community-led grassroots effort, was introduced by People’s Defense Initiative in hopes to create policies that protect and defend all people, but the focus is on two primary fields: immigration and criminal justice.
Tucson has been victim to several unfair immigration policies, according to Livier. “As a charter city, we not only have the constitutional right to defend our community, but we also have the absolute responsibility to do so,” she said.
Livier expects that in the future Tucson will become a city where all individuals can live their lives without fear. “We expect that Tucson will become a more inclusive and equitable city,” she said, “a city where everyone can thrive, regardless of their immigration status.”
Jose, a Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals recipient, has no doubt that Tucson will do the right thing come November. “I think a lot of people will show up to the polls in November,” he said. “Especially the young voters. They’ll be the ones who will speak up for us who can’t. I really believe that they will stand up for what’s right.”
According to News 4 Tucson, the Pima County Republican Party filed a lawsuit against the City of Tucson on Friday, June 12. In a news release, the Republican party wrote they believed “40 percent of the signatures submitted are either invalid or fraudulent.”
The group also writes that they want the required number of signatures to get on the ballot to be raised from 9,241 to 12,400.
On July 2, the Pima County Republican Party took to Facebook to address the sanctuary city petition, stating an effort to audit the signatures. “If enough unqualified signatures are discovered, Pima GOP will challenge these petitions through every legal process available so that this misguided effort never reaches the ballot,” the group wrote.
On June 3, People’s Defense Initiative, several volunteers and supporters of the sanctuary city campaign gathered before submitting the thousands of signatures to the City Clerk's office.
In a video of the gathering, Livier said, “to our undocumented community, we love you, we appreciate you, you are safe," she said. "We want you here and we’re ready to fight for you. That is the message that we’re willing to die on a hill for.”
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