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Northampton Mayor Narkewicz will sign executive order prohibiting police from turning over illegal immigrants

  • JERREY ROBERTS<br/>Dr. Marty Nathan, second from right, cheers after Mayor David Narkewicz agreed to implement immigration reform during a meeting Thursday at The First Churches. Nathan also spoke during the meeting. Bliss Requa-Tratz, left, who is an organizer for Just Communities, asked the mayor for his support at the meeting. Also shown are Jaime Pizha, second from left, a church leader at Iglesia Quechua Bautista Nueva Vida, and Sharon Moulton, who also spoke.

    JERREY ROBERTS
    Dr. Marty Nathan, second from right, cheers after Mayor David Narkewicz agreed to implement immigration reform during a meeting Thursday at The First Churches. Nathan also spoke during the meeting. Bliss Requa-Tratz, left, who is an organizer for Just Communities, asked the mayor for his support at the meeting. Also shown are Jaime Pizha, second from left, a church leader at Iglesia Quechua Bautista Nueva Vida, and Sharon Moulton, who also spoke. Purchase photo reprints »

  • JERREY ROBERTS<br/>Luis Alavarez speaks during a meeting held Thursday to address immigration issues at The First Churches.

    JERREY ROBERTS
    Luis Alavarez speaks during a meeting held Thursday to address immigration issues at The First Churches. Purchase photo reprints »

  • JERREY ROBERTS<br/>Rosa Chimborazo speaks during a meeting held Thursday to address immigration issues at The First Churches.

    JERREY ROBERTS
    Rosa Chimborazo speaks during a meeting held Thursday to address immigration issues at The First Churches. Purchase photo reprints »

  • JERREY ROBERTS<br/>Luz Buri speaks during a meeting held Thursday to address immigration issues at The First Churches.

    JERREY ROBERTS
    Luz Buri speaks during a meeting held Thursday to address immigration issues at The First Churches. Purchase photo reprints »

  • JERREY ROBERTS<br/>Members of Soldaditos de Jesus sing during a meeting held Thursday to address immigration issues at The First Churches.

    JERREY ROBERTS
    Members of Soldaditos de Jesus sing during a meeting held Thursday to address immigration issues at The First Churches. Purchase photo reprints »

  • JERREY ROBERTS<br/>Jessie Aquino, left, who is a civilian advocate at Northampton Police, Northampton Police Chief Russell Sienkiewicz and Northampton Mayor David Narkewicz listen during a meeting held Thursday to address immigration issues at The First Churches.

    JERREY ROBERTS
    Jessie Aquino, left, who is a civilian advocate at Northampton Police, Northampton Police Chief Russell Sienkiewicz and Northampton Mayor David Narkewicz listen during a meeting held Thursday to address immigration issues at The First Churches. Purchase photo reprints »

  • JERREY ROBERTS<br/>Dr. Marty Nathan, second from right, cheers after Mayor David Narkewicz agreed to implement immigration reform during a meeting Thursday at The First Churches. Nathan also spoke during the meeting. Bliss Requa-Tratz, left, who is an organizer for Just Communities, asked the mayor for his support at the meeting. Also shown are Jaime Pizha, second from left, a church leader at Iglesia Quechua Bautista Nueva Vida, and Sharon Moulton, who also spoke.
  • JERREY ROBERTS<br/>Luis Alavarez speaks during a meeting held Thursday to address immigration issues at The First Churches.
  • JERREY ROBERTS<br/>Rosa Chimborazo speaks during a meeting held Thursday to address immigration issues at The First Churches.
  • JERREY ROBERTS<br/>Luz Buri speaks during a meeting held Thursday to address immigration issues at The First Churches.
  • JERREY ROBERTS<br/>Members of Soldaditos de Jesus sing during a meeting held Thursday to address immigration issues at The First Churches.
  • JERREY ROBERTS<br/>Jessie Aquino, left, who is a civilian advocate at Northampton Police, Northampton Police Chief Russell Sienkiewicz and Northampton Mayor David Narkewicz listen during a meeting held Thursday to address immigration issues at The First Churches.

When twice pressed by organizers of a community forum sponsored by the Northampton Trust Coalition to sign such an order posthaste, Narkewicz offered a simple response — “si.”

That led to an eruption of cheers from about 50 people gathered at the First Churches of Northampton to share stories and plead with Narkewicz to codify the Police Department’s three-year-old practice not to participate in a controversial federal immigration program known as Secure Communities.

Narkewicz and Police Chief Russell P. Sienkiewicz said police have not participated in the ICE program since the City Council passed a resolution in 2011 condemning the federal initiative. They vowed that Northampton is committed to continuing that practice by making the non-binding measure official city policy.

“My commitment as mayor is to make sure that every family, every resident, every child feels safe in Northampton,” Narkewicz said. “Our Police Department is here to protect the residents of Northampton and they work very hard to do that and I do not want to have a city where people live in fear of any city official, from the mayor to the Police Department.”

He said he feels for the concerns and fears that people live with, and blamed a broken federal immigration system whose problems must be dealt with at the local level.

The mayor initially stopped short of saying he would issue an executive order in an effort not to preempt the City Council, which has been working on a resolution for some time. But he also said he was committed to issuing an administrative order to address some of the issues raised at the meeting. That led organizers to press harder, urging him to use his powers as the city’s chief executive to act quickly.

“We’re looking for a path to have codified law on this issue and we would like you to take the first step,” said Bliss Requa-Trautz, an organizer for the forum sponsor Just Communities. “And so we ask the question again. Would you be willing to sign an executive order based on the proposal we have given you?”

“I am prepared to do that,” Narkewicz said.

Sienkiewicz acknowledged the fears expressed by those who attended the forum and shared their personal stories, calling the testimonials “touching.”

Among those were Luis Alavarez, a 10-year resident of Northampton and father of two who recalled an incident three years ago in which he borrowed his brother’s car to go to work and was pulled over by police for a burned-out license plate light. Alavarez told officers he did not have legal documents to be in the country and therefore could not get a license. He said they arrested him, searched his car and refused to provide an interpreter when he asked.

“At that moment I kept thinking about what would happen to my daughters if I was deported,” Alavarez said through an interpreter. “I know I’m running a risk today by giving this testimony ... we want to shed light on how it is that we live.”

Rosa Chimborazo, through tearful testimony, recalled the events of Aug. 7, 2011, when her husband was detained by Northampton police for driving without a license. The arrest led to his deportation and heartache for the family of five, a feeling that she equated to a “street with no exit.”

“I ask that you help us be safe so that police will not turn our people in,” Chimborazo said. “I would not want this to happen to other families.”

Finally, a third Northampton resident, Luz Buri, told a story of mistakenly running a red light and being confronted by two police officers. The first officer, she said, advised her to clear her frosted windshield before driving but took no other action. The second officer asked for her license and registration. When she told him she did not have a license, she said the officer threatened to call immigration “at any moment.”

“Ever since that day I have a great fear that I have spoken to my husband about a lot,” Buri said.

Sienkiewicz assured the audience that his department takes all complaints seriously. After hearing Chimborazo and Buri recount their experiences at an earlier meeting, the chief said his department investigated both cases for potential misconduct by officers. He said the Chimborazo case occurred just a few days before the City Council passed its 2011 resolution.

“I wish that ordinance would have been in place before that — I’m sorry for that,” the chief said.

The Buri incident did not involve officers from his department, Sienkiewicz said. He also intends to look into the case of Alavarez.

“I want to reassure all of you that there shouldn’t be any fear,” Sienkiewicz said.

Narkewicz said he intends to sign the executive order as soon as next week. That will add Northampton to a list of some 140 communities nationwide that have taken similar measures, Requa-Trautz said. The city is also among the first communities in the state to take such a stand, joining Boston and Somerville.

Additionally, states are also passing similar measures, though a Massachusetts bill known as the Trust Act stalled during the last legislative session.

Northampton’s order builds on the 2011 resolution and provides three main safeguards for immigrants in non-criminal matters.

Most importantly, Northampton agrees not to comply with federal law allowing ICE to ask state and local police to hold immigrants so that deportation officers can pick them up.

Another key provision in the executive order protects immigrants from an extra penalty for driving without a license and gives them time to call a licensed driver to pick them up before their vehicle is towed. And a final measure guarantees immigrants the right to converse with police officers and dispatchers in whatever language they are most comfortable speaking .

Narkewicz and Sienkiewicz said these are all measures the Police Department currently follows, something that Requa-Trautz agreed with.

“This order builds on the sentiment of the (2011) resolution and codifies it legally because the resolution is not binding,” she said after the forum. “So we’re seeking a greater form of security for Northampton.”

The Northampton Trust Coalition is headed by Iglesia Quechua Bautista Nueva Vida and includes the Peace and Justice Committee of First Churches, and Just Communities.

In addition to immigrants, many members of the latter organizations attended Thursday’s forum including Dr. Marty Nathan, who sees many immigrant patients in her Springfield office. She said the testimonies at the forum are common for many of her patients, including victims of crimes who are afraid to report them for fear of being deported.

“I hear the pain, the sorry,” she said. “I see the results of this broken immigration system.”

Nathan was the first to press the mayor to act swiftly Thursday night. “We can lead,” she said. “We have led. It’s because we have the capacity to care. Sign this executive order to begin to end the suffering of the immigrants of the city of Northampton.”

Narkewicz said after the forum that he believes the order will help build trust.

“I think the name trust for this act and this movement is apt because really it’s about building trust in the community ... we want them to feel like they can come forward and not be concerned that we are going to be looking at their immigration status,” Narkewicz said.

Comments
Legacy Comments9

The illegal children are bringing in TB now and there are 70 people who crossed the southern border from countries with the unconrolled Ebola epidemic since this summer. Also the mysterious virus that is hospitalizing thousands in the midwest may be realted to the southern border breakdown. Thank you Mayor Narc for inviting illegals to come down to N'ton since you made it a sanctuary city. The first TB case in Nton will be from your amnesty policy. http://www.boston.com/health/2014/09/09/hundreds-tested-for-lynn/esBoqBlldtnvoQoVgI7O1K/story.html

So your here illegally, going about your life and supporting your family.. The thing is that in order to operate a vehicle you need to be legal and insured to do so. That is a serious violation. If one gets into an accident and caused injury or property damage without insurance, who will foot the bill ? Apply to become a citizen, get legal and then drive. If an illegal is stopped the police will allow them to have a legal operator respond instead of towing the vehicle as to not cause them more expense ? I certainly hope that there is a reasonable time frame attached to this part of the issue ... I also imagine that every (LEGAL CITIZEN) driver who is stopped by NPD and for some reason has to have their vehicle towed will expect the same courtesy as an illegal. Otherwise Northampton would be discriminating against citizens for not allowing a licensed operator to respond. I believe that most local PD's already "unofficially" follow that practice anyway, the key word being reasonable .. But what I read looked like a mandate if they are illegal ... I see that some of our Massachusetts politicians want to hand out drivers licenses to illegal immigrants, giving them a document that would allow them to drive and have a legal photo document that makes them appear to be legal. What criteria will there be for those who are illegal to get such a document ? Just give a name and get a license, a birth certificate that can't be verified ? To get a Massachusetts license there are several requirements that have to be met - are those going to be changed or waived for illegal applicants ? They will have to be.

There are many justified concerns, that Gary has pointed out, and I also realize there are some very nice people that have come here illegally. In saying that, I have to disagree with the Mayor's choice on this. What one needs to realize is that there is a process in place to come over to our great country legally. In this process there are many measures that our government takes to ensure (not always 100% effective, but more so than not) those coming here are documented as well as looked into for intents of becoming an American citizen. There is also one very strong point that needs great attention, many of those that come over here illegally come from countries that do not inoculate against a variety of diseases as well as we are not inoculated against them. The CDC has many guidelines for prevention of diseases, and when one comes over here illegally they are not tested for or against diseases. It only takes one infected person to spread and cause a disease that is a silent killer. The Mayor has increased the chances of this happening by turning a blind eye on those who are here illegally. And just to be clear, I do not have an issue with anyone wanting to come to our country, but we do have processes in place, and they are in place for a reason. Do these process need to be reviewed and improved, yes. The mayor in lieu of disregarding the law, should spend his energy and time in helping to make our laws and processes more accessible for those to come over legally.

Probably the same probability that someone would bomb the Boston Marathon or fly planes into the WTC. Since there are about 6 billion impoverished people in the world lets have open borders and let all and any who can fly or walk to this country in. Haven't you ever heard of legal immigration? Stop making it comfortable for those people to come here illegally. Its wrong that the mayor is making N'ton a sanctuary city. You certainly cannot deny that drug gangs are coming in over the border and crimanl elements. Just look at whats going on in Mexico. The coutnry is a basket case.

gary, that's highly unlikely. I've tutored immigrants who take English courses in Northampton, and they're wonderful people who happen to have had the misfortune of being born in impoverished countries, the luck and fortitude to come to the US to find work and help their families, and the great good fortune to work with caring people in our community who welcome them, teach them English, take care of their medical problems, etc. The great "terrorist threat" is something that corporate-owned media uses to divide groups of people and keep us all living in fear. As the business of corporations is to exploit resources all over the world, it's in their interest to keep people from seeing each other as human beings.

Very proud of our community and of Mayor Narkewicz for taking this stand. Immigrants are far more likely to be the victims of crime than the perpetrators of crime, and everyone should be able to feel safe coming to the police. Thank you to Just Communities, Iglesia Quechua Bautista Nueva Vida, and First Churches!

What if one of these 'immigrants' stopped and let go by the police is a terrorist. Today ISIS tweeted they are in American cities and are going to kill us. Just think of the terrorists at the Boston Marathon if you don't think they could not be in N'ton. Here is the tweet from ISIS in case you haven't seen it yet. Mayor Narc should be held responsible if one the people he lets go later commits a crime. "CHICAGO (CBS) — An ominous post on Twitter, purportedly from somebody connected with Islamic State, shows a photo of the Old Republic Building, 307 N. Michigan Ave. and the White House. The text reads: #AmessagefromISIStoUS We are in your state We are in your cities We are in your streets You are our goals anywhere."

Even if I don't agree with this, I have to remember that I live in a town that does.

But anybody else can

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