The Trump Effect is playing out in Boynton Beach, and it’s not pretty.
With fears of deportation on the rise in immigrant communities, first-term city commissioner, Christina Romelus, suggested that Boynton declare itself a sanctuary city. The idea was quickly shot down by the City Commission.
But some residents were so incensed at Romelus for suggesting the idea, they demanded that she resign, be voted out or be impeached.
Romelus, who was born in Haiti, has a better grasp of what being an American means than the self-proclaimed patriots demanding her ouster.
“Having differing opinions and working through those to reach a common goal is how this country was founded,” Romelus told The Post’s Alexandra Seltzer. “Asking for my resignation simply because I had the audacity to bring up a controversial issue is testament to this day and age in which we live. I think it is sad.”
She added that the “grotesque behavior” of those who have been “spewing blind hatred at me for wanting to have a discussion about this issue is alarming and merits attention.”
Romelus said she has no intention of resigning.
Good. She offers a point of view that needs to be heard.
And yes, this subject does merit attention. Let’s put the attention where it belongs: on President Donald J. Trump and the animosities and vitriol he has unleashed with his appeals to racism and xenophobia, ugly currents of American life that are usually held in check by a general sense of restraint, respect and decency.
Take sanctuary cities. This is a concept that’s been around since the 1980s, most famously when San Francisco declared itself a “City of Refuge,” claiming the moral high ground with the argument that asylum-seekers should be shielded from shortsighted federal law enforcement. Some 300 cities, states and counties now consider themselves sanctuary cities, largely on practical grounds: they don’t want immigrants and their families to be scared of relying on local police. And so they limit their cooperation with federal immigration authorities.
The republic has seemed to get along well enough with this state of affairs, despite efforts in the 2008 primaries by Republican candidates Rep. Tom Tancredo, of Colorado, and Mitt Romney to crank it into a campaign issue.
But these politicians didn’t have Trump’s gifts for drawing attention, slinging invective, devising phrases that stick in the brain, and using a single horrifying fatal shooting in San Francisco by an undocumented Mexican to represent the whole of cities’ tolerance for illegal immigration.
Take a look at how the phrase “sanctuary city” spiked in Google searches after Trump made it a campaign issue. The chart’s timeline starts in 2004. Curiosity about the subject was minimal until June 2015. That’s the month when the billionaire real estate developer/showman declared for the presidency, telling us about the Mexican “rapists” sneaking over the border.
Since winning the White House, Trump and his attorney general, Jefferson Beauregard Sessions, have placed a crackdown on sanctuary cities high on their agenda. And now it’s a boiling issue, the very mention of which is seen as grounds for impeaching a city commissioner.
Such are the heightened animosities in the United States under a president who speaks of “fine people on both sides” of the Charlottesville, Virginia, confrontation between neo-Nazis and people protesting neo-Nazis. Now, reprehensible views are free to roam — such as those of Cindy Falco-DiCorrado, one of the Boynton Beachers who called for Romelus to resign.
According to resident Mathi Mulligan, Falco-DiCorrado told him at a meeting this month to speak “better English,” and allegedly told black residents “you’re lucky we brought you over as slaves or else you’d be deported, too.”
Falco-DiCorrado says she was misconstrued, explaining that she always tells her son and husband, who speak with accents, to improve their English. And whatever anyone heard her say about black people, she meant that “out of hardships you can rebuild again and there are blessings.”
Her denials would be more convincing if she didn’t have a Facebook page that, according to Post columnist Frank Cerabino, is filled with tripe, including a post that reads: “If you agree that racism is no longer an actual threat in this country, but a strategy that the Democrats and Liberals use to secure black votes = SHARE!!”
And her attitudes would be less significant if she weren’t a member of Boynton’s Community Redevelopment Agency advisory board.
Now it’s being asked why someone with her views should advise an agency that aims to improve neighborhoods with large minority populations. Vice Mayor Justin Katz asked her this week to resign. She returned his email with a no.
The City Commission seems sure to take up the question at its meeting next Tuesday. Mulligan says, “We will keep pressing on until the City Commission fires this white supremacist from a job that gives her direct power over the lives of people of color.”
Falco-DiCorrado insists she’s no racist but is now, herself, the victim of a “lynch mob” that’s harassing her with emails.
And so, welcome to Boynton Beach, where nerves are frayed, tensions are rising, and in no way can it be said that Boynton Beach is winning. Or being made great again.
What we need is a way to talk about these differences with a whole lot less anger. But we’re not going to have that with a president who sets a tone of disparagement toward minorities and pushes the buttons of white resentment every time he talks to his “base.”
The bully pulpit has become a pulpit that bolsters bullies