"Sanctuary City" referendum anyone?
On Monday, a ribbon-cutting ceremony is scheduled for Anacostia High School, and later this week the new H.D. Woodson High will be celebrated.
But will students at those two overwhelmingly black schools actually earn an education that leads to jobs, the military or higher education, or will illegal immigrants bump them to the back of government-subsidized bread lines? It's possible.
At every turn, Mayor Vincent C. Gray points out that youths and young adults are ill-prepared for self-sufficiency, putting the District at a crossroads.
The unemployment rate is near 10 percent.
More than 4,000 people, a record number, turned out for a D.C.-residents-only job fair last week.
The mayor and representatives of Wal-Mart Stores Inc. shared a microphone Wednesday to announce a public-private partnership that would pay employers to hire and train about 2,000 D.C. residents.
Pass any construction site inside city limits — whether it's for a single-family home, public-works project or commercial building — and you are likely to see and hear men at work for whom English is not their native language.
Not all such workers can be dubbed illegal, of course. But who really knows? The federal government doesn't because our porous borders are marked with welcome mats, and neither end of Pennsylvania Avenue wants to tackle illegal immigration.
Many U.S. businesses, such as Chipotle Mexican Grill, formerly owned by McDonald's Corp., don't know workers' status and don't want to know.
And D.C. officials? Well, they are in don't-ask-dont-tell mode as a sanctuary city.
City hall refuses to even consider rules and laws that would require asking foreigners for their residency bona fides.
The police department also rebuffs the feds.
D.C. officials smite their own law-abiding, taxpaying constituents: They don't want Congress or the White House having any say in what happens here; and they put self-governance about all else.
They are, in a word, hypocrites.
"I find the D.C. Council and mayor to be hypocritical by asking for D.C. statehood, but they are silent on illegal immigration," Carlos Bright, who lives in Ward 4, told me over the weekend. "As a D.C. voter, I would support a voter referendum questioning the Districts sanctuary city status."
Now there's a cause worthy of considerable energy.
Mr. Bright made his comments after sending an email to members of the council, in which he pointed out the city's policy conundrum.
"Unemployment is high in the District of Columbia, and illegal aliens shouldn't be allowed to work here. For years, the District of Columbia has been a sanctuary city for illegal aliens. Illegal aliens have been allowed to work in the construction, hospitality and janitorial industries in the District of Columbia," he said.
Only "U.S. citizens and legal residents" should be allowed to work in the District, Mr. Bright added.
He's right, and you know he's right.
The Democrats in city hall even want to put their iconic donkey after the cart regarding driver's licenses. That is to say, they argue that it's more important for an illegal to be a licensed driver than a legally documented immigrant.
Showing off the new bricks and mortar has its place in the order of things. After all, Anacostia looks much as it did when I went to school there back in the ... well ... let's just say some years ago.
And black and white folks were so eager to erect Woodson in the early 1970s that they failed to realize the mighty "Tower of Power" was an educational and architectural nightmare.
Unless teachers ratchet up academic rankings, the Anacostia and Woodson grads will face the same dark jobs picture as their parents.
Mr. Bright's suggestion of a referendum on being a sanctuary city could brighten their prospects.
At minimum, it will force officials to think twice about giving away jobsto people who are here illegally.
• Deborah Simmons can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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