Councilors introduce ‘welcoming community’ ordinance

Staff Writer
Published: 2/26/2019 8:18:40 AM

EASTHAMPTON – A pair of city councilors are introducing a new ordinance proposal that would remove “arbitrary review” of residents’ or community members’ immigration status unless required under state or federal law.

Called the Welcoming Community Trust Ordinance, Councilors Peg Conniff and Homar Gomez are presenting the proposal at the Wednesday, Feb. 20 city council meeting.

“The purpose of what we are doing is to make Easthampton welcoming for everyone,” Gomez said on Saturday. “It doesn’t matter where you come from, people should feel comfortable with calling the police without fear.”

The city has previously considered a “sanctuary city” measure after a group called the Easthampton Community Coalition filed a petition in October 2017 requesting Easthampton issue an ordinance or executive order by the mayor to prohibit the city’s resources from being used for federal immigration enforcement.

The city council decided to table the measure after much debate around the legality of such a proposition. Now, Conniff says the time is right to revisit the topic after consulting with Springfield city councilors who passed a similar measure in December and members of the ACLU.

“The ultimate goal is to codify that folks who may otherwise have a reluctance to come forward to either report crime as a witness or victim can feel safe and will not be asked about their immigration status as part of that report,” Conniff said.

Modeled after Springfield’s welcoming community ordinance, Gomez said he wanted to pursue a similar ordinance in Easthampton so that residents’ and community member’s immigration status were not questioned inappropriately by city employees or law enforcement.

“There is no changing of federal law,” Gomez said. “Basically, what we are saying to employees of Easthampton and the police department is don’t do ICE’s job.”

ICE, or Immigration and Customs Enforcement, is an agency within the Department of Homeland Security formed in 2003.

To clarify, Conniff added that the ordinance does not provide any protections for anybody that commits a crime, regardless of their legal residency status.

“Just reporting a crime or being a victim of a crime should not be subject to additional scrutiny that’s unnecessary,” such as questioning one’s immigration status, Conniff said.

The ordinance also calls for a report of the number of civil immigration detainer requests submitted to the city officials by ICE or immigration agency, the number of individuals that city officials detained at the request of ICE and the number of individuals taken into custody by ICE.

Luis Fieldman can be reached at lfieldman@gazettenet.com




Daily Hampshire Gazette Office

115 Conz Street
Northampton, MA 01061
413-584-5000

 

Copyright © 2019 by H.S. Gere & Sons, Inc.
Terms & Conditions - Privacy Policy