February 5, 2017

Mariano: VOTE: Should Worcester be a sanctuary city?

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Flickr / tedeytan

President Trump's immigration policies have many Americans up in arms -- but not Sinacola.

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Ray Mariano

Shortly after President Trump signed an executive order attempting to withhold federal funds from so-called sanctuary cities, I watched my old friend Boston Mayor Marty Walsh speak forcefully against the president’s plan. As I was listening to him speak, I started to think about my city and what Worcester would or should do.

The purpose of this column is to give readers an opportunity to vote on the subject and to express their personal feelings. But first some background.

What is a sanctuary city?

There is some disagreement and perhaps even confusion about what being a sanctuary city actually means.

While there is no specific legal definition, the broad political term applies to a city, town, county or state that has adopted a policy not to use its funds or resources to enforce federal immigration laws, and typically forbids police and other governmental employees under its control from asking about a person’s immigration status.

The actual designation may be either formal, in that the jurisdiction sets a policy voted on by the governing body, or informal, in that certain practices take place that have some of the effects of a sanctuary city policy. In practice, what happens once a community adopts a sanctuary city policy varies. However, at a minimum, most sanctuary cities prohibit officials from asking about a person’s immigration status or stopping someone to determine their immigration status.

It is important to note that, in a sanctuary city, all federal immigration laws still apply. However, enforcement of those laws must be done by federal authorities without, or with limited, local assistance.

Where are sanctuary cities?

Sanctuary cities can be traced back thousands of years, all the way to the Old Testament. Then the meaning and practice were very different.

In 1979, Los Angeles became the first city in the United States to adopt the sanctuary designation. In that instance, the city prohibited police from initiating “police action with the objective of discovering the alien status of a person.”

Today, cities such as San Francisco provide funding to be used for legal services by the immigrant community, including undocumented immigrants. Other cities, like Chicago and Los Angeles, have similar funds, and more jurisdictions are considering establishing such accounts.

Along with cities and counties, there are four states (California, Connecticut, Rhode Island and Vermont) that have statewide laws limiting how much local police can cooperate with requests from federal authorities to hold immigrants in detention.

Currently, there are somewhere between 140 and over 200 sanctuary jurisdictions (cities, towns, counties and states) across the country, located in 32 states and the District of Columbia. Many of the country’s largest cities have some form of this policy.

In Massachusetts, according to media reports, there are six communities that have formally adopted the sanctuary city designation: Amherst, Cambridge, Chelsea, Holyoke, Northampton and Somerville.

Impact of sanctuary city policies

Studies attempting to measure the impact of sanctuary city policies have produced either neutral or positive results.

A study conducted by a professor at the University of California, Riverside, showed no statistically meaningful effect on crime. However, a study by a professor at the University of California, San Diego, showed that “crime is statistically lower in sanctuary counties compared to nonsanctuary counties. Moreover, economies are stronger in sanctuary counties …”

In general, police departments have been reluctant to become involved in immigration matters. Many worry that by involving themselves, the police would jeopardize the hard-earned trust they had established with the immigrant community. According to NBC News, Seattle Police Chief Kathleen O’Toole said that “police leaders across the country are aligned on this issue.”

Flickr / Gage Skidmore

Donald Trump

President’s executive order

According to the president’s executive order, any jurisdictions that willfully refuse to comply with federal immigration law “are not eligible to receive Federal grants, except as deemed necessary for law enforcement purposes by the attorney general or the secretary (Homeland Security).”

The White House has not said what specific types of federal funds will be withheld but most observers agree that, depending on the community, the amount could be significant. However, observers also agree that federal funds appropriated specifically by Congress cannot be limited.

If and when federal funds are withheld, legal challenges are likely to ensue.

Worcester City Council

The Worcester City Council has never adopted a sanctuary city policy. Nevertheless, following the president’s executive order and all of the publicity, City Councilor Michael Gaffney submitted a resolution asking the Council to go on record against becoming a sanctuary city.

While Worcester has no sanctuary city policy, the Worcester Police Department, like many police departments across Massachusetts, does not involve itself in federal immigration matters by asking about someone’s immigration status

Just prior to last Tuesday’s City Council meeting, as many as 1,000 area residents, perhaps a few more, gathered in front of City Hall, in below-freezing temperatures and a light snow, to oppose President Trump’s various executive orders and to oppose Gaffney’s resolution.

Once the meeting started, Gaffney and Trump took a beating. First it was more than two hours of citizen testimony. Much of the testimony focused on Trump’s 90-day ban prohibiting citizens from seven Muslim-majority countries from entering the United States.

Nine area colleges sent representatives who spoke in opposition to Gaffney’s resolution.

Then it was the councilors’ turn. As he had done at the rally, Mayor Joe Petty did everything he could to tie Gaffney to Trump. “In the United States of America, people are living in fear,” Petty said, directing his comments at Gaffney.

One by one, members of the council rose and blasted Gaffney. Councilor Gary Rosen called Gaffney’s resolution “garbage,” and Councilor George Russell, like several others, asserted that the resolution was politically motivated. Councilor Candy Mero-Carlson echoed most of the evening’s speakers when she said that the resolution filed by Gaffney spread fear through the immigrant community.

In defense of his actions, Gaffney tried to deflect the criticism, saying that even though everyone had spoken against him, everyone was really in agreement. He read the specific wording of his resolution to make his point. Not a single citizen spoke in Gaffney’s defense.

When the voting took place, Gaffney’s resolution was defeated by a vote of 9-2, with only Councilor Konnie Lukes joining Gaffney.

So, what do you think? Should Worcester become a sanctuary city? I would like to invite you to complete the very brief online survey at the end of this column. I would also invite you to comment or email me by clicking on the link below and sharing your thoughts.

In next week’s column, I will report on the results and your comments.

There are five yes or no questions. Please answer each one. (And don’t forget to share your thoughts with Ray in the comments below, on Facebook or at Mariano@worcester.ma.)

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Raymond V. Mariano is a Worcester Sun columnist. He is the former mayor of Worcester and former executive director of the Worcester Housing Authority. Ray grew up in Great Brook Valley and holds degrees from two city universities. He comments on his hometown every Sunday in Worcester Sun.

20 thoughts on “Mariano: VOTE: Should Worcester be a sanctuary city?

  1. If Obama had done this, oh he did, you would be in lock step. Most people protesting don’t even know what theyre screaming about. The media is definitely fueling this fire and should be ashamed. Maybe all these college kids should just go to their “safe” place. Good luck in the real world with that!

    • Darlene, I wish that were true. Because then all we’d have to do is get over it. But the numbers don’t support your claim – not even close. However, every part of your statement is an obvious rehash of propaganda that has been fed to you – fed to you – by people who know they are the minority but are nonetheless willing to rig, borrow or steal to gain power. Check the numbers on that, you don’t need a college degree to do it. Oh, and I don’t have one either. I just think critically, and for myself and I believe, above and beyond my own comfort level at times, in the Constitution. Most of all I believe that to survive, it needs a citizenry willing to cry out foul where it sees it. Good luck to you, and God Bless

  2. ILLEGAL and/or UNDOCUMENTED aliens SHOULD NOT BE ALLOWED to remain in the United States. They should be returned to their country of origin. They SHOULD NOT be protected by any of the laws of this country.

  3. There is absolutely no defense for sanctuary cities. When you start picking and choosing what laws you will or will not enforce, a complete breakdown of society is not far behind.

  4. What if ISIS or a drug cartel wanted to hide out in a sanctuary city? What mechanism does Worcester have in place to screen out the bad guys? And as for the “Not bad guys”, what is the benefit of making a mockery of our laws? What is the benefit of allowing ANYONE and EVERYONE to live in our country and spend our money? Wake up America, the democrats are destroying us on purpose!

  5. A county without borders is not s country. I don’t agree with protestors but I do agree they have the right to protest and their voices need to heard and respected.

  6. I can’t believe this is even a discussion. We are a nation of laws. Why would we want to harbor criminals. Remember “undocumented” means they broke the law. What has happened to our country. I live in Worcester. If they pull the federal money because of this I’ll start packing my weapon since our local government has decided to not to protect US to the full extent of the LAW.

    • September 4, 2012 at 7:23 pmHelp!! i dont know how to take the main scale and vernier scale readings in a travelling mie;8scopc&#o230r.nd i have my exam tomorrow….can someone help me?? Reply

  7. Our tax paying citizens should be first heard and first protected. They seem to be ignored when it comes to those whether illegal, legal or otherwise from questionable countries who quietly come here and enjoy our good benefits. Some of these could be the same people that we think are in question being protected as in Santuary Cities. The truth is it’s not fair to the tax payers. All we see is tax increases. Who should we blame for this? Who will fix our growing debts? Of course the tax payers.
    By the way it costs us close to $15,000 per year to teach every newcomer student. Just multiply that by a single falmly of 4 kids. Our great city must not suffer from outsiders bringing in new financial problems or relious demands.
    Mr. Gaffney asked a fair question that was unfairly handled. Both Mayor Petty and Mr. Gaffney are good smart people and I have high regards for both. We have a group smart city councilmen and city manager.
    By the way we do appreciate people that look at the other side of the coin.
    We need check and balances.
    LST. Let’s Stand Together.

  8. Don’t subvert the laws of our country.
    If you truly want to know a bit about our country, that has been lost to some for far long – watch the film Monumental: In Search of America’s National Treasure.
    The description of the movie:
    Follow Kirk Cameron across Europe and the U.S. as he seeks to discover the people, places and principles that made America the freest, the most prosperous and generous nation the world has ever known.

  9. Our country is in danger today from WITHIN and not from without! Wake up all of you unpatriotic traitors who have no idea as to what is happening to the demographic danger that is slowly creeping into our society. We are a Christian nation with a Constitution that separates the church from the government. Our forefathers who gave us this wonderful country to live in had no idea at the time that our country would ever be so diversified that the religious and political threats that we have today could ever occur, would have given us a different Constitution that would protect our country from the people who violate (Obama) and want to get rid of our Constitution. Danger lurks within our society by a well-organized group of radicals who are funded by George Soros and who want to overthrow our government and install a left-wing dictatorship. WAKE UP AMERICA.

  10. I’d like to improve my life by robbing a bank. It’s ok, right? All the other depositors and insurance can absorb what I take illegally, right? So I would like sanctuary from prosecution for robbing a bank. All the authorities have to do is ignore the larceny laws….no problem….right?

  11. Our country became great because we are a country of MAKERS. We are now threatened by millions of unpatriotic people who mostly are TAKERS. We need to update our immigration service to have quotas for every year that is based on common sense and not on emotions. In order to keep our country in balance with the society that we have enjoyed for over 200 years, we must strive to accept legal immigrants ONLY and not change the voting demographics of our country to a point where the TAKERS overwhelm the MAKERS. This is not discriminatory, it is common sense, given the realization that it could someday happen.
    Too many immigrants could care less about our Constitution; they care only about them- selves and their own way of living. How can we expect most of them to be patriotic?
    Think of the legacy that you want to leave behind for your children after you are gone: do you want to change your country from what it was intended to be?

  12. Yes I believe Worcester should be a sanctuary city. It’s not reasonable to require local law enforcement to carry out the responsibility of immagration services. If someone is arrested and local law enforcement find out the individual has broken the law and is an illegal alien then the dept of immigration should be contacted. Other than that I don’t believe it’s the job of local law enforcement to also be immegration officers. Local police work hard to gain the trust of its citizens and this immigration requirement undermines that trust.

  13. Does Mexico have sanctuary cities for people from Guatemala, El Salvador, Nicaragua, etc? No??? Why not?

    Countries have to have borders and there has to be proper identification and vetting of people who cross those borders. Otherwise, you end up with a lawless element and an unsustainable drain on public resources.

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