Support grows for so-called Sanctuary City resolution in New London

Supporters hold signs reading 'New London stands with immigrants' during a New London City Council meeting addressing proposed resolution relating to police interaction with undocumented immigrants on Monday, April 23, 2018. (Sarah Gordon/The Day)
Supporters hold signs reading "New London stands with immigrants" during a New London City Council meeting addressing proposed resolution relating to police interaction with undocumented immigrants on Monday, April 23, 2018. (Sarah Gordon/The Day)

New London — Public sentiment for a proposed resolution in which the city would declare its support for its undocumented immigrant population, visibly shifted on Monday. 

What many continue to refer to as the Sanctuary City resolution had been met with a backlash from a very vocal group in opposition when it was first made public last month.

But on Monday, supporters filled the City Council chambers to combat “fear mongering,” as one woman in attendance said.

And while there is still plenty of opposition, a host of people at the City Council meeting held signs announcing “New London Stands with Immigrants,” and urged the council to vote in favor.

The proposed resolution essentially codifies existing police practices that bar officers from questioning someone’s status in the country and of not actively enforcing federal immigration law.

Laura Schafer, who spoke at Monday’s meeting, said the resolution was not intended to protect violent criminals.

“This resolution complies with both state and federal law," Schafer said. "We want our hard-working police officers to stay focused on their job, not taking on the added burden of enforcing civil infractions like immigration."

"There is no inherent risk to adopting this resolution. It shows the city doesn’t just take pride in diversity when it’s convenient or quietly offer sympathy to the undocumented behind closed doors. New London needs to stand and join other towns in our state showing courage for our most vulnerable members," she said.

Schafer is a member of People Power, an activist group that joined with the Greater New London Clergy Association members last year to bring the idea of an ordinance friendly to undocumented immigrants to city administration. Mayor Michael Passero has said the city attorney and police chief helped to draft what is now before the City Council to ensure it did not violate state or federal laws.

The resolution never went to a vote or even made it out of committee Monday.

Public Safety Committee Chairwoman Alma Nartatez, who supports the measure, said that because of time constraints, discussion would continue at a later date.

The debate is likely to continue.

Some have argued that not only would the resolution put a target on New London if the federal government decides to try and block federal funding to so-called "sanctuary cities" but is simply not needed if police already practice what the resolution states.

Among other things, the resolution outlines measures already practiced by the police department — requiring judicial warrants prior to detaining an individual for U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement and Border Patrol agents and preventing access to any detained individuals without a court order or legitimate law enforcement purpose.

Police Chief Peter Reichard has said police are not in the practice of enforcing federal immigration laws but would not actively stand in the way of federal agents. He said federal authorities are informed of arrests and would likely become aware that a person being detained is in the country illegally. He has said city police are only interested if crimes are committed and will not hold someone solely based on the status of their citizenship. Police are mandated by state law to share information with federal officials.

People Power, in a statement released prior to the meeting, said it is a misconception that the resolution alone would bring New London to sanctuary city status. While there is no explicit definition for a sanctuary city, People Power argues that U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions has defined it as jurisdictions that willfully refuse to engage in information sharing with federal agencies.

Resident Kathleen Mitchell said the city should focus more attention on violent crimes including one recent murder.

“I don’t believe the residents and voters of this city are ready to hear about the problems of illegal immigrants who are not citizens until this administration and council do something to prevent more tragedy for the residents in this city who are citizens,” she said.

Aracelis Vasquez-Haye, a New London resident and associate pastor of Church of the City, said the resolution would send a powerful statement to the immigrants in the community, documented or undocumented.

“Our people contribute and add value to New London and our region,” Vazquez-Haye said. “They love the city. They own property. They are business owners. They pay taxes. Their children attend our K to 12 (school) systems. They are college students as well. Yes, they matter here. There is no room to operate in this narrative of fear.”

g.smith@theday.com

Editor's note: A comment inaccurately attributed to Laura Schafer was removed from this version of the story.

 

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