Peduto, city officials voice support to immigrant leaders

Leaders in Hispanic, Muslim and other refugee and immigrant communities voiced their fears about everything from hate crimes to potential deportations in a Thursday meeting with Mayor Bill Peduto and other top city officials Thursday.

“We wanted to let them know the city has their back,” Mr. Peduto said, “that the city is here to protect all residents whether they’re documented or undocumented, and that this city will fight for their constitutional rights over any executive orders.”

He said the meeting built in part on the city’s Welcoming Pittsburgh initiative of recent years, which seeks to create a more hospitable environment for immigrants — but that the situation “has pivoted these last three months.”

President Donald Trump has issued executive orders to intensify the deportations of immigrants who entered the country illegally, to cut refugee resettlement in the United States and to restrict travel from six majority-Muslim countries. Many Latinos fear deportations that could separate parents from their U.S.-born citizen children. And representatives of immigrant and other minority groups attribute a series of hate crimes to the current political climate.

“There’s a lot of anxiety, a lot of concern coming from the Latino community and the Muslim community,” Mr. Peduto said. He and other Pittsburgh officials sought to assure their leaders that city authorities do not take part in any actions leading to deportations.

Officials at the meeting, which lasted more than two hours, included police Chief Scott Schubert. Attendees included representatives of Latino, Muslim, Turkish, Sudanese and other groups, as well as representatives of refugee organizations.

Bibhuti Aryal of Dormont, vice chair of the Governor’s Advisory Commission on Asian Pacific American Affairs, was among those encouraged by the dialogue around the question, “When we talk about Pittsburgh being a welcoming city, what does that mean and how do we make that happen?”

Mehboob Chaudhry, local coordinator of Emerge USA, a group that seeks to boost civic engagement among Muslims, said the mayor and officials showed they understood the concerns of vulnerable populations.

“It seemed like he listened to everybody,” he said. “That’s number one. We are very hopeful things will improve.”

He added: “I have three kids who were born here. They are as American as you can get. They are very activist, all of them. They are in every demonstration,” but some days they end up in tears.

Peter Smith: or 412-263-1416; Twitter @PG_PeterSmith.

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