Mayors Once Again Sidestep Trump to Tackle Major Global Problem
Cities are increasingly assuming diplomatic responsibilities.
When US President Donald Trump called for a crackdown on sanctuary cities earlier in the year, many mayors resisted the pressure to change their policies.
When Trump later announced his plan to pull out of the Paris climate agreement, cities throughout the country upped their climate commitments.
Now cities are once again sidestepping the president to take global leadership on an issue.
Earlier in the week, the Trump administration withdrew from a UN pact on migration and refugees.
“While we will continue to engage on a number of fronts at the United Nations, in this case, we simply cannot in good faith support a process that could undermine the sovereign right of the United States to enforce our immigration laws and secure our borders,” Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said in a statement on Sunday.
Now more than a dozen cities, including New York, Chicago, and Los Angeles, have sent a petition to the UN asking to be allowed to participate in the pact, according to Foreign Policy.
“Cities are on the frontlines of resettling and supporting immigrants and refugees,” a spokesperson from the New York City Mayor’s Office of Immigrants Affairs told Foreign Policy.
“Cities are pushing for a seat at the table at a time when many national leaders are increasingly isolationist – and even xenophobic – and disconnected from cities’ values of inclusivity and growth,” the spokesperson added.
The UN declaration was adopted in 2016 and the US has participated in related talks through April of this year. The declaration placed no binding requirements on countries. It was simply meant to get the world on aligned on the growing migrant and refugee problem, leading to a global compact created in 2018.
There are currently 65.6 million displaced people in the world, the highest number ever recorded. Countries from Italy to the Turkey to Bangladesh have struggled to deal with the rising tide of people across borders searching for safety and opportunities.
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The UN declaration asks countries to uphold human rights, combat xenophobia, help refugees resettle, provide opportunities to migrants, and more.
The Trump administration withdrew from the pact the day before UN diplomats were scheduled to meet, and cities throughout the US tried to stem the diplomatic fallout from this by asking to be included, according to FP.
“We need to be part of U.N. decision-making if international agreements are to be responsive to on-the-ground realities,” said Bitta Mostofi, acting commissioner at the New York City Mayor’s Office of Immigrant Affairs, in a statement to FP.
The status of the petition is as of yet unknown, but city leaders may be allowed to formally participate because they have been involved in UN affairs in the past.
“While our national government may decline to engage the international community on this crisis, it is imperative that cities join the conversation,” said Penny Abeywardena, New York City’s commissioner for international affairs, in a statement to FP.