As federal policies rapidly, and sometimes frighteningly, change during Donald Trump’s presidency, there is only so much that can be done in response. On a local level, however, each one of us has far more potential to make an impact. A great place to start is by supporting a proposal that would make Newton a “sanctuary city” at the Newton Programs & Services Committee hearing on the issue. The meeting is tonight at 7:30 p.m. at Newton City Hall, but a rally is being held in support of the ordinance at 6 p.m.
The meeting will focus on a “Welcoming City” ordinance, a compromise between two previously opposing ordinances, one sponsored by Mayor Setti Warren and Newton Police Chief David MacDonald and the other by a handful of city councilors. The new ordinance has the support of Warren, MacDonald, former mayor David Cohen, and at least 16 of the city’s 24 city councilors.
The proposal’s stated purpose is “to enhance relationships with all residents, including immigrants, and to make all residents, workers and visitors feel safe and secure regardless of immigration status.” This language is in disagreement with Trump’s hard-line anti-immigration stance. Specifically, it prohibits city officials, including police officers, from requesting the immigration status of any person when not required by state or federal law. It also states that city officials may not report any person to federal authorities regarding their immigration status when not required by federal law. The ordinance does not apply in instances of a serious threat to public safety.
These standards are, for the most part, already police department practice, according to The Boston Globe. However, they are not currently backed up by law. The ordinance will ensure that, regardless of any future pressure that may arise from Trump’s anti-immigration policies, Newton’s policy will remain intact.
In Newton, those who oppose Trump’s agenda are the clear majority. According to data provided by the city government, only 16 percent of Newton voters in the 2016 presidential election voted for Trump. This being the case, it is a common-sense decision for Newton to serve as a relatively safe place for those who are threatened by Trump’s policies.
Unfortunately, at the last City Council hearing on the ordinance, which took place Jan. 18, people opposed to the ordinance disproportionately outnumbered those in favor, according to David Mapes-Frances, a senior who attended the hearing.
Charles Jacobs, the founder of Americans for Peace and Tolerance–an organization classified by the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) as an Islamophobic hate group–was cheered at the meeting, according to Councilor Susan Albright, who supports the ordinance. A lawyer for the American Civil Liberties Union, present to support the ordinance, was booed, while a woman who said she felt threatened by the anti-ordinance crowd was laughed at, added Albright.
This response is not representative of Newton. The vast majority of us who oppose Trump’s agenda must show up to support vulnerable members of our community and to show councilors in favor of the ordinance that their constituents support them, and the ideals they are standing up for. “We’re supporting this ordinance to support the principle behind it,” said Albright.
This can begin now.
Newton becoming a sanctuary city under this ordinance will send a strong message that we will not support a bigoted, illogical, anti-immigration vision of the United States.