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A Journey to a More Stable Sanctuary City - City Council Reintroduces Welcoming City Ordinance

A Journey to a More Stable Sanctuary City - City Council Reintroduces Welcoming City Ordinance

City Councilor Dennis Carlone reintroduces the Cambridge Welcoming City Ordinance at the Cambridge City Council meeting..

“I have one student at my former institution who was deported. No one knew about it, no one knew what happened. We found out later that he was from El Salvador. He had paid a gang, (the MS13) so that they would stop trying to kill his family. Eventually ICE got a hold of it and said they were collaborating with him. He disappeared. This was a kid who was 18 years old, he had graduated from Boston Public Schools, he was enrolled in college to become an electrician, and his entire life was pulled out from under him simply because someone had shared his information with ICE. “ said Cambridge resident during the public comment period at the Cambridge City Council meeting in reference to the Welcoming Ordinance. “Now he is living in a country, no one knows what happened to him, where there are 100 murders for every 100,000 residents. This is completely unacceptable if we could keep folks in Cambridge from sharing information.”

The Cambridge resident's public comment about her former student and the fact that MIT recently allowed Immigration and Custom Enforcement (ICE) to conduct visa checks are examples of many incidents that cause a lack of trust within the community. The Cambridge Welcoming City Ordinance first introduced on May 6, 2019 by City Councilor Dennis Carlone would enforce laws where police officers and other city employees will not be allowed to inquire about a resident’s immigration status and restricts the sharing their personal information with ICE officials. The ordinance also states that the Cambridge Police Department can not make arrests on the basis of residents' immigration status or of ICE warrants. Last Monday, the Welcoming City ordinance was passed for a second hearing. Vice Mayor Alanna Mallon insisted on the urgency of the ordinance. Although Cambridge has been a Sanctuary city since 1985, as of today, this is just a policy that can be changed. The Ordinance would make it a law. In an Op Ed for the Cambridge Day, City Councilor Dennis Carlone writes "This legislation, sponsored by the Massachusetts branch of the American Civil Liberties Union and immigrant rights groups such as the Welcome Project and Brazilian Workers Center, makes our sanctuary city status an official city ordinance, rather than a policy that can be changed without a vote from the City Council. It sets restrictions on what information the police can share with the federal government, and we hope to expand it to our schools and other city agencies."

At the the City Council meeting, Councillor Carlone explained that the wording of the ordinance has been approved by the Cambridge Police Department and ACLU but they still need to come to an agreement on some words. There have been ongoing changes and clarifications to the ordinance. “We also prepared a letter which explained the status of different parts depending on still needing police and the city and ACLU to agree on wording in some areas. And then we added tonight a talking point sheet so it’s clear what we’re after, what we’re not after, “ said Carlone.

During the meeting Vice Mayor Mallon proposed an amendment to section H of the Ordinance. “Springfield actually has this section but they include T Visas and also federal protections under the Violence Against Women Act. “ She explained, “So I think this could be expanded to include both of those other designations to make sure that we are encompassing all of the ways that we want to protect immigrants if they want to come forward, if they’ve been victims of crime, have witnessed a crime.” Section H of the ordinance mentions people with U visas which are for victims of crimes who have suffered physical and/or mental abuse and can help the law enforcement investigate or prosecute for criminal activity. T Visas are for victims of human trafficking and their family members who report the crime and can help with the investigation and prosecution. The amendment would make the Welcoming City ordinance applicable to more immigrants by specifying particular immigration statuses. Vice Mayor Mallon proposed the amendment for the second reading so she can discuss the language with her colleagues prior to the reading.

In the mean time, the ordinance may go through more edits as the city council, the Cambridge Police Department and the ACLU come to agreements. “ We don’t see this as 100 % finished” said Councilor McGovern, “we realize it needs to be massaged.”

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