'Sanctuary city' resolution sparks debate in New London

New London — It looked as though it had died in committee.

A resolution outlining police procedures and existing protections for the city’s undocumented population — some still call it a sanctuary city resolution — seemingly failed to move to a vote by the full City Council. Two of the three members of the council’s Public Safety Committee — John Satti and Martin Olsen — voted against.

But committee chairwoman Alma Nartatez cast the lone vote in favor and would not let the issue fade away so easily.

Citing the New London City Council Rules of Procedures, Nartatez promised to bring what has been a contentious issue back for a vote of the full City Council.

It led to murmurs of confusion among the dozens of people gathered Monday in City Council chambers, some of whom had earlier spoken passionately for or against the proposed resolution. Many held signs announcing “New London Stands With Immigrants.”

It turns out that the council rule book contains a provision that apparently allows someone voting in the minority to submit a “minority report” and call for a vote of the full council.

The move keeps the issue alive for the foreseeable future, though the City Council still appears to be split on whether the resolution is a good idea.

Along with Satti and Olsen, Councilor Don Venditto voiced his opposition to the resolution as written. Nartatez, Efrain Dominquez and Council President Anthony Nolan all announced support.  Councilor Michael Tranchida is an unknown and perhaps the swing vote.

Supporters continue to argue the resolution is a welcoming message to the city’s immigrant population and something that will improve public safety by creating a safe environment for people to report crimes without fear about their own status in the United States.

First brought to the city as a proposed ordinance more than a year ago by the activist group People Power, the resolution reaffirms the police practice of not infringing on civil rights of citizens by asking about a person’s race, immigration status or citizenship.

The resolution cites the limits on local police cooperation with federal immigration authorities, such as requiring judicial warrants before police will detain or hold someone at the request of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents.

Police Chief Peter Reichard and City Attorney Jeffrey Londregan helped to massage the resolution into a document they said would follow existing police procedures and not create a conflict for police.

Not all the original language made it through to the final document, Reichard said, such as a request that police withhold names of people under arrest, something he said would violate Freedom of Information law.

“My personal feeling is everybody is entitled to the same protection under the law … whether you’re in the country legally or illegally, whether you’re a citizen or not a citizen,” Reichard said.

Like others against the idea of the resolution, however, Kat Goulart said it served only to polarize the community.

“I think that this resolution is solving a problem that, quite honesty, we don’t have,” Goulart said.

Glennys Ulschak, who has been working with People Power, argued that the resolution "brings together in one document the better self of this city."

“We are here to protect and welcome those who feel unprotected because of the climate in which we live,” she said.

Police union president Todd Lynch said the committee has spent too long debating an issue and not enough time addressing the lack of police or the city’s willingness to obey an ordinance mandating 80 police officers.

“I wish the public safety committee, especially the public safety chair, would put as much effort into hiring police officers as they have into this resolution which really has no teeth but has taken up their time for months,” Lynch said.

g.smith@theday.com

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