Local Officials Tackle How to Govern in a Divided America

“The point we made was if you live in the city of Phoenix, we want you to participate in the community,” he said.

The state’s Republican Legislature was not on board and tried to prevent the city from implementing it, but the business community came to the rescue.

“They said, ‘This is good, smart public policy for a city like Phoenix,’” Mr. Stanton recalled.

In the end, the Legislature’s attempt to stop the effort failed by one vote, and Phoenix was able to move forward, he said.

Art Acevedo, Houston’s police chief, told the conference that immigration policies, in particular, had fallen victim to a hyperpartisan political climate that turned undocumented immigrants into “political pawns of the left and the right.”

He and Ras J. Baraka, the Democratic mayor of Newark, spoke on a later panel about the tensions between the Trump administration and many city governments over immigration policy. A crackdown on illegal immigration, including a wall on the Mexican border, were signature issues for Mr. Trump during the 2016 campaign.

“The primaries in this country, the people who vote in primaries, are extremely left and extremely right,” Chief Acevedo said. That dynamic has encouraged politicians to take unyielding positions on immigration that in turn contributed to political deadlock, he said.

“If you want to fix this issue, make every congressional district in this country competitive, 50-50, and we’re done,” the chief said. “You need to focus on good public policy, not good primary politics.”

Chief Acevedo was a vocal critic of a Texas bill signed into law in May that cracks down on so-called sanctuary cities by requiring local law enforcement to cooperate with federal immigration authorities. The new law, which goes into effect in September, will also allow local police to question criminal suspects about their immigration status, which they currently do not do.

He said he thought that…

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