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New England News

Springfield City Council To Take Final Votes On Ordinance To Protect Immigrants

Springfieldcitycouncilsanctuarypresser.jpg
WAMC
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Ignoring a veto threat from the mayor, the City Council in Springfield, Massachusetts plans to take final votes tonight on an ordinance to ban city employees from asking people about their immigration status. 

   Mayor Domenic Sarno said the Welcoming Community Trust Ordinance would essentially make Springfield a “sanctuary city” – something he has vowed repeatedly to not let happen.

  In a statement, Sarno said the ordinance would create a liability issue by preventing city employees from carrying out their sworn duties.

The ordinance was given initial approval on a voice vote by the City Council on November 19.  Two roll call votes are expected to take place Monday night to send it to the mayor’s desk.

It takes nine votes of the 13-member City Council to override a mayoral veto.

" We have enough support of the ordinance to override the mayor's veto," said  City Council President Orlando Ramos. 

Proponent say  the ordinance is needed so that undocumented immigrants will report crimes to the police, or call City Hall, if they’re being victimized by an unscrupulous landlord.

" We know there is a large population of people living in fear because they may be undocumented," said Ramos. " If those folks are victims of a crime,they are afraid to reach out for help."

In addition to barring city employees from asking a person about their immigration status, the ordinance also says “a city official shall not target with legal action or discriminate against a medical, educational or faith institution in their mission of providing refuge to immigrants and their families.”

This harkens back to earlier this year when the South Congregational Church in Springfield provided refuge to a woman facing deportation to Peru and Sarno ordered city building code inspectors to visit the church apartment where she was living.  They found only minor violations.

" Any religous institution in our city has a right to provide services to people and it is not fair for our city to target them," said Ramos

      The ordinance forbids city officials from responding to requests from federal immigration agents for information about people in police custody unless there is a judicial warrant.  It also states a city official is not to perform the functions of an immigration officer.

" We want to make sure we are not spending city resources doing the job of the federal goverment," said Ramos.

City Councilor Adam Gomez, the lead sponsor of the ordinance, denies it is intended to make Springfield a “sanctuary city.”

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