Easthampton mayor unmoved by sanctuary city petition

Cadieux says policy already is followed


Published: 10/9/2017 8:55:23 PM

EASTHAMPTON — While residents are once again urging Easthampton officials to prohibit the use of the city’s resources for federal immigration enforcement, Mayor Karen Cadieux’s opinion on the matter hasn’t changed. She said she will not issue an executive order.

“I had the police chief attend several meetings with me in order to clearly explain our policies and procedures,” she wrote to the Gazette. “It seemed insulting to order the police department to do exactly what they are doing and practicing right now.”

Last week, a petition with 757 signatures was presented to the City Council by the Easthampton Community Coalition, urging the issuance of an ordinance or executive order. One hundred signatures are needed to hold a public hearing, according to the city’s charter. After the city clerk verifies that the minimum number of signatures are valid, a hearing will be scheduled. Kae Collins, spokeswoman for the coalition, said in a phone interview Monday that the signatures were collected over a period of time and reflect a continued belief from a segment of the community that a written policy and codified police protocols need to be in place.

Both legal and undocumented immigrants, Collins said, are frightened by the ever-changing landscape at the federal level and are worried about a crackdown by Immigrations and Customs Enforcement.

“We want to create a community where people feel welcome and anything we can do to step forward as citizens to mitigate the climate of fear, it’s our duty as citizens to do that,” Collins said.

Police Chief Robert Alberti said Monday that no one from the coalition has reached out to him. He referred to the Lunn v. Commonwealth case, in which the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court ruled in July that local court officers cannot arrest or hold people based solely on an immigration detainer.

“ICE has never been to Easthampton looking for us to hold people on civil detainers in my career,” Alberti said, referring to the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency. “Immigration enforcement is the job of the federal government. Local and state police do not have purview.”

Whether to issue a measure that would designate Easthampton as a so-called sanctuary city was widely discussed last winter, bringing dozens to public meetings who voiced concerns from both sides.

But Collins said proponents of an ordinance never got an answer from the council’s Ordinance Subcommittee, which opted to table the matter in February.

Alberti attended the meetings last winter and told the public that the police department does not ask people about their immigration status and would not use the department’s limited resources for federal immigration enforcement.

During that time, documents circulated — one called for the mayor to issue an executive order, another stating opposition against such a measure — before the discussion was taken off the table.

City Solicitor John H. Fitz-Gibbon wrote an opinion stating the City Council does not have the authority to issue an ordinance ordering the police to ignore ICE detainer requests.

When the City Council withdrew the sanctuary city idea, Cadieux said she would not be issuing an executive order.

“For me to do an executive order — as we’ve talked about before —reiterates what we do now, but orders the police to do what they are already doing — is insulting to them,” Cadieux said in February.

Though a mayoral and council election takes place next month, Collins said it wasn’t appropriate to wait any longer to file the new petition.

“That would mean sitting on this another six months as the climate of the country continues shifting,” Collins said.

Caitlin Ashworth can be reached at cashworth@gazettenet.com.

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