Local Commentary

Editorial: A Sanctuary Community

“Falls Church can set an example of unity, light, and kindness for our children and for the nation,” two young and trend-setting elected officials in the City of Falls Church wrote in a Letter to the Editor in the News-Press last week. “In light of recent events in our country…we want to take the opportunity to reaffirm our long-standing community values of equality, inclusion, and diversity, no matter the national context,” they wrote, “We remain a welcoming and respectful place for all people, all faiths, all races, all cultures, all sexual orientations and all backgrounds.”

So eloquently wrote first term City Council member Letty Hardi and first-term School Board member Erin Gill.

We hope that all their colleagues on the City Council and School Board affirm the same values and sentiment. As we’ve commented in this space in the last couple of weeks since the presidential election declared Donald Trump the winner, based on threats and vows he made during his campaign, there are many people in our midst right now who are having to cope with a palpable fear.

To the extent that many who are not persons of color or practicing diverse faiths or cultural traditions are being dismissive about this, a good dose of American empathy is called for. We must add, there has been little that has transpired since the election to assuage those fears.

It is clear that so-called “alt-right” purveyors of hatred and violence against minorities have been energized by the Trump victory, and cannot be expected to tone down their hateful rhetoric and the escalation in hate crimes that it has already incited.

For all advocates of the kind of diversity affirmation that Hardi and Gill wrote about last week, the challenge will be vigilance as the process unfolds into the new year. Some have taken to wearing safety pins on their lapels to signal to anyone who might be in distress from words or actions of hate that they can expect to find shelter and help in that person. This was done in Great Britain when violence broke out in the wake of the Brexit vote earlier this year, and might be an appropriate response again.

City of Falls Church officials, and we dare say, their neighbors in Arlington, Alexandria and Fairfax County, should be making preparations now in the event things get ugly next year, and a new administration comes looking for what they may intend to deport as illegal Hispanics or Muslims. We cannot assume now that this simply won’t happen.

Like some already, including Los Angeles, San Francisco, the City of Falls Church and other regional bodies should prepare to, and be proud to declare themselves “sanctuary communities” that will not cooperate with any federal government policy that seeks to illegally or heartlessly restrain, confine or deport persons solely on the basis of race, religion or any other aspect of human diversity.