Over the objections of its mayor, the third-largest city in Massachusetts has enacted a law to offer some protections to undocumented immigrants.
The Springfield City Council voted 10-1 Monday to override Mayor Domenic Sarno’s veto of the Welcoming Community Trust ordinance. The vote capped over two months of back-and-forth between councilors and the mayor that often echoed the bitter national debate over immigration.
Springfield City Council President Justin Hurst said overriding the veto was “the right thing to do.”
The ordinance instructs city employees to not make inquiries about a person’s immigration status. It also forbids city officials from targeting with legal action or discriminating against a medical, educational, or faith-based institution that is providing sanctuary to immigrants.
Councilor Adam Gomez, the lead sponsor of the ordinance, said final passage means undocumented immigrants living in Springfield should feel free to call the police, or any city agency, if they need help without fear of retaliation.
"On the federal level those issues have nothing to do with the ordinance that is being put forward today," said Gomez.
In a statement, Sarno decried the council’s vote to create a “sanctuary city.” He said the city council had chosen to “stand with supporting illegals on our taxpayer dollars.”
Sarno, while saying he supports legal immigration, has long fought against attempts to protect undocumented immigrants living in Springfield. Last year, he ordered an inspection of an apartment at the South Congregational Church where a woman facing deportation to Peru had taken refuge.
Tara Parrish, director of the Pioneer Valley Project, which operated the church sanctuary program, hailed the council’s vote.
"Springfield is a safer city tonight," declared Parrish. " At the end of the day, love won over fear."
As with earlier city council meetings when the Welcoming Community Trust ordinance was on the agenda for debate, the City Hall council chamber was packed with people, many standing and spilling into the hallway.
There was applause and cheering when the result of the override vote was announced.
The 13-member council needed a two-thirds majority, or nine votes, to override the mayor’s veto.
City Councilor Tim Allen cast the only “no” vote on the override.
Councilors Ken Shea and Kateri Walsh were absent from Monday night’s meeting. They had both voted against the ordinance when it passed the council on December 17th.