There is no simple, official definition of a 'sanctuary city.' What I envision for Quincy is to publicly declare that our current law enforcement policies will not change. Quincy Police will arrest people if they break our laws but will not act as immigration agents. Immigration enforcement will be left to the Federal government. Let me state my case:
Since its founding, Quincy has been a destination of immigrants and we see evidence of that all around town. Ward One's Germantown got its name from the many German immigrants who came to work in Quincy's glass works in the 18th century. The Irish came in the 19th century and now we have one of the highest percentage of Irish Americans in the country. Most recently, Quincy has become home to many people from East Asia, giving us a tremendous and thriving Asian American population. Immigrants literally carved Quincy's legacy out of the granite and that rich tradition demands that we protect and honor our heritage of welcoming new contributors. It is my opinion that Quincy should be a 'sanctuary city' and at the very least consider this designation with public meetings. I would also like to hear from you as to your personal thoughts on this issue. This is a nuanced issue and I want all concerned citizens to have their voices heard.
I know some will argue that I'm conflating immigrants with undocumented or illegal aliens. That's a fair point. There are many immigrants who have gone through the strenuous legal immigration process and they should be applauded. It is my hope that Congress passes legislation that makes it possible for those who are not here legally to properly register and "get right" with the country. I do believe the vast majority of people that are here illegally are not acting with malice and I believe they respect America and our laws. They are simply trying to provide a better life for their families.
The 'sanctuary cities' discussion touches on many pressing issues including:
- the role of our law enforcement
- our budget
- public safety
We have a great police department in Quincy, filled with decent and hardworking men and women. We don't want these officers used as de facto federal immigration agents. It increases the burden of their job and diverts our resources. Further, contrary to popular belief, studies increasingly show that immigrants commit less crime than US-born citizens. So devoting Quincy resources to apprehending people who have not committed any other serious infraction does not make sense.
Designating Quincy as a 'sanctuary city' is good fiscal policy. Cities are not typically reimbursed by the federal government for the costs of enforcing immigration policy. The added costs of detention, administration, and person-hours would all fall on the city budget. Further, the legal costs of civil-rights lawsuits that occur due to honoring the requests of the federal agencies can also fall to the city.
But most importantly, we need our immigrant population, both undocumented and documented, to feel safe interacting with our police department and courts. We want all people to report when they have become the victim of a crime and we want them to step forward when they witness a crime. If someone is injured or in need of emergency medical treatment, we don't want them to hesitate before calling for help. Even documented residents can hesitate to contact authorities when there is a chance a friend, neighbor, or relative can get swept up by police responding to help or investigate.
This discussion has reminded me of something I witnessed back in California. I was renting an apartment in a large complex in Burbank. The management company hired a crew of workers to re-tar the roof. The hired crew were Latino in origin and were going to be on our roofs for several days. One day, while working from home, I heard an awful scream. I ran outside to see one of the workers in absolute agony as his back was covered in hot tar. An accident occurred and it had been spilled from above on him as he worked below. I grabbed a fire extinguisher, as there seemed to be some flames on him and on the tar on the ground, and had a neighbor call 911. In the midst of his agony he managed to yell "No!" when he heard me ask for an ambulance. He did not want the police or fire companies to come. Of course his injuries were severe and some of his friends convinced him to sit down while we probably did all the wrong things to help him. We debated about whether or not removing his clothes would help or hurt, whether or not we should pour water on him. His crew supervisor and several others fled. Many of his co-workers stayed and took their chances, but it became quite obvious that the presence of law enforcement was not going to be good. He was taken away to the hospital and I don't know what happened to him. But I'll never forget, as his skin was on fire, he did not want me to call for help. These are the situations I hope to avoid.
Some of you may be concerned that declaring ourselves a 'sanctuary city' would violate federal law. This is certainly a matter of discussion. Attorney General Sessions recently announced that the Department of Justice would act to "claw back" certain types of federal grant money from cities that declare themselves 'sanctuary.' Just like many of the current administration's ideas, I don't think courts will look kindly on this stance. Federal law does not require local police departments to prolong detention, nor is the job of our city to enforce immigration law. The statute our Attorney General cited deals with the sharing of information among law enforcement. I am not calling for Quincy PD to violate that statute. I am also not calling for Quincy PD to block federal immigration agents from doing their job here. "According to the Quincy Police Department, officers neither seek out undocumented immigrants nor ask about people's immigration status." I am calling on Quincy to continue their current policy.
If Quincy's PD is already operating in an acceptable manner, why, you might ask, would we take the next step and designate the city as a 'sanctuary?" Though their policy now is humane and shows discretion, declaring 'sanctuary' makes clear to those who could be impacted that the policy will not change and that, as long as they don't commit a criminal act, the Quincy Police have no interest in detaining them or handing them over to ICE. Further, as Attorney General sessions threatens to withhold money for funding that would help keep people safe, it is important that the cities and towns of America not bow to pressure and give up their autonomy.
Some people feel this topic is just too polarizing. But just because an issue is divisive and it stokes strong opposing views, that is not a reason not to examine or discuss. I, and many others, call on the city to rise to this challenge. Let us compile and examine the data and have discussions (you may recall from reading my "why I'm running" page that discussions were quashed recently). For instance, I'd like the city to let us know how much we have received in the types of grants that are at risk of being "clawed back" if we make this designation? We have a foreign-born population of nearly 30%, how many do we estimate are undocumented? Of those undocumented, how many have children here? Are spouses? Run businesses? These are the types of concerns we should be thinking about.
Quincy is at risk of finding itself on the wrong side of history. It is at risk of betraying its heritage and soul. Let us consider this carefully and make a decision that takes into account what is practical and what is right.