As the case of a Guatemalan mother taking sanctuary in a New Haven, Conn. church stretches to a sixth day, it highlights the serious discord developing among the contentious factions of local, state, and federal governments.
Nury Chavarria, a single mother of four, is an undocumented alien who has been living in the United States for 24 years. Rather than abandon her children as Homeland Security and ICE had ordered her to do, Chavarria acted on her motherly instincts and took refuge in Iglesia De Dios Pentecostal Church in New Haven — a sanctuary city in a sanctuary state.
One of 13 undocumented aliens currently living in churches across the nation, Chavarria’s case is drawing national attention, not just for her bravery, but also as a symbol of states’ moral authority over the bureaucratic authority of the federal government.
In neighboring Massachusetts, state Rep. James Lyons (R-Andover) is watching the situation in Conn. and monitoring ICE activities in his own state. Following a Massachusetts’s Supreme Judicial Court ruling on Monday that held local police do not have authority to hold ICE detainees solely at the request of federal agencies, he is drafting legislation to change the rules in Mass.
Lyons and a minority group of republicans want to force Mass. police to aid ICE and detain aliens without any underlying criminal cause. The bill would allow arrest on a civil deportation warrant, essentially deputizing state and local police officers as federal agents. The state bill is expected to garner little support in a political atmosphere thick with disdain for Donald Trump and his fascist policies. It also challenges another Mass. bill under consideration that prohibits collaboration between federal immigration officials and state and local authorities.
A rift is widening between the federal and state governments that represents more than the 13 women and men living in churches across the country and immigration issues. With each attack on his own administration officials like Attorney General Jeff Sessions, Donald Trump’s fascist-edged regime is driving a divisive wedge deeper into this nation’s heart.
The discord swirling in Washington, D.C. is reaching beyond the West Wing and across the aisles of both houses. Moreover, it is demonstrating a fundamental lack of government policy and understanding from the executive branch that undermines its authority. With each instance of infighting between Trump and his appointees and advisors, he erodes state officials’ faith in the federal government to do the right thing.
The press and public have often criticized the Washington machine for errant policy making and for bowing to the power of the dollar. However, America has arrived at a point when D.C.’s moral compass is so broken, it may not be able to recalibrate itself.
As state and local governments — representing smaller communities with a closer perspective of right and wrong — become the guiding lights of a return to morally correct leadership, it will continue to water down federal authority. The states’ pushback against Trump’s erratic and self-promoting governing will hopefully reset Washington and save the integrity of the Republic.
While hundreds gather for candlelight vigils for a mother in Connecticut, the trembling flames burn not only for her, but also for a revival of unity, of morality, and of tolerance. The flickering candles in New Haven light the path back to the United States for her and for all of us.