The stunning victory of 28-year-old Democratic Socialist Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez in the New York primary on June 26 pushed the call to “abolish ICE” suddenly and powerfully onto the national stage. (ICE, of course, is the acronym for the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency.) But even before big-name politicians like Kirsten Gillibrand and Bill de Blasio began taking up the call, a growing anti-ICE rebellion had begun reverberating across city and county legislatures in response to the Trump administration’s brutalizing “zero-tolerance” immigration policy.
As The New York Times reported, the commissioners of Williamson County, a conservative Austin suburb, voted on June 26 to terminate its contract with ICE and CoreCivic, which runs a local detention facility currently housing mothers separated from their children. A few weeks earlier, Sacramento County canceled its contract with ICE, rejecting its annual $6.6 million reward for housing immigrants awaiting hearings at a local correctional facility. And both Springfield, Oregon, and Alexandria, Virginia, joined the ranks of ICE contract breakers soon after.
The continued detention of immigrants in these cities is not dependent on these contracts, and there’s little doubt that the Trump administration will find a way around cities’ dissent. But the message of these cities—which often make millions of dollars a year on contracts with ICE, sustaining jails that might otherwise close—is unmistakable.
All across the fraught fronts of immigration, labor, and voting, cities around the country showed this month that they’re willing to assume the costs of securing their residents’ rights, even as state and federal assaults mount. In the process, they reminded us, during one of the darkest months yet of Donald Trump’s presidency, that another world is still possible.
Here’s what they have been up to.
The Labor Movement Fights On in Seattle
The Supreme Court’s decision in Janus v. AFSCME on July 27 landed a bruising blow to public-sector unions, effectively transforming the whole of the public sector into a sprawling “right-to-work” zone and likely hampering the ability of unions to secure protections and wages for millions of public-sector employees.
Yet, even as the news sent a blast wave of angst rolling through the labor movement, workers and activists in Seattle were busy laying the groundwork to extend basic labor rights to a group of long-exploited workers. These workers include nannies, house cleaners, in-home caregivers, and other domestic workers—all of them excluded from the National Labor Relations Act and other federal labor protections. And the proposed remedy is a Domestic Workers Bill of Rights that, if passed, will guarantee these workers a minimum wage, rest breaks, and other basic protections. It would also assemble a first-of-its-kind Domestic Workers Standards Board, giving workers and other community members the power to establish binding industry-wide standards—a new model of collective bargaining for a group of workers so often isolated from one another. Eight states, including New York, California, and Massachusetts, have passed similar bills since 2010.