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City Council Plans Vote To Support Springfield Church's Sanctuary Stand


  The city council in Springfield, Massachusetts is considering an order to block a crackdown against a church that is providing sanctuary to an undocumented immigrant.

   The proposed order, written by City Councilor Tim Ryan, directs city employees to take no steps to interfere with the South Congregational Church providing housing for a woman who is facing imminent deportation to Peru and separation from her two American-born children.

     " It would be our hope and expectation the department heads are not going to target religious institutions," explained Ryan. " It should be a no-brainer."

     After members of the Springfield Interfaith Sanctuary Coalition announced the church was housing Gisella Collazo and her two children, ages 4 and 10, Mayor Domenic Sarno ordered city inspectors to check the church for code violations and requested a legal review of the church’s tax-exempt status.

      As of Tuesday afternoon, no enforcement action at the church had been reported.

     City Council President Orlando Ramos called for a special meeting for a vote on the proposed order, but scheduling conflicts among the councilors scrapped the plan.  The order will be on the agenda for the Council’s April 9th meeting.

     " I hope that through this process we will be able to send a very clear message to the administration that this sort of approach will not be tolerated and that we here in the city of Springfield are a welcoming city," Ramos said.

     Ramos and five other councilors held a news conference to voice support for the order and to criticize Sarno’s stance against the church providing sanctuary to Collazo.

     City Councilor Jesse Lederman said what the church is doing poses no threat to public safety.

     " South Congregational Church is continuing  a long tradition of religious institutions in the United  States going beyond politics to stand up for what is truly just and morally right," said Lederman.

     Sarno, in a statement issued by his office in response to the proposed council order, said millions of dollars in federal funds used by Springfield would be at risk if it becomes a “sanctuary city.” 

     "I really think bringing that up is scare tactic to try to convince people we are in someway jeopardizing the city's funding," said Lederman. "We are not doing that."

      There is no definition of what constitutes a “sanctuary city.”   Threats to cut off federal funds have typically followed directives for local police to refuse to honor requests from federal immigration agents to detain for deportation people who are not charged with other crimes.

     According to members of the interfaith coalition, Collazo has lived in the Springfield area for 17 years and has no criminal record. She is trying to resolve her legal status to remain in the United States.

The record-setting tenure of Springfield Mayor Domenic Sarno. The 2011 tornado and its recovery that remade the largest city in Western Massachusetts. The fallout from the deadly COVID outbreak at the Holyoke Soldiers Home. Those are just a few of the thousands and thousands of stories WAMC’s Pioneer Valley Bureau Chief Paul Tuthill has covered for WAMC in his nearly 17 years with the station.
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