SALEM BECOMES A SANCTUARY

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14-year-old Max McAuliffe spoke in favor at the hearing : “if the Sheriff of Bristol wants to come arrest us for adopting this ordinance, he can take me first: because we are Salem and we are united !

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Last night, after a town hall that continued for more than four hours, Salem’s City Council voted to make it a Sanctuary City. The vote was seven in favor, four opposed.

What says the ordinance approved by the Council ? You can read it all in the ordinance linked here (it’s a 15-page PDF, so take your time):

http://www.salem.com/sites/salemma/files/uploads/salem_sanctuary_for_peace_-_a_human_rights_declaration_0.pdf

The ordinance’s seven major provisions read totally plain vanilla, don’t they ?

Acknowledge the presence in Salem of undocumented persons; guarantee them all the rights and services which Salem accords to every other resident — no less, no more.

As more than one Councillor pointed out during the discussion, Salem is already according this to undocumented residents. So why was the ordinance in any way controversial, much less an occasion for at least 400 people crowding into the Bentley charter School]s assembly hall to speak in favor, or not in favor, of adopting it ?

The answer, of course, is that Mr. Trump has made undocumented immigrants his number one atrget, his excuse for everything he finds wrong with America, and thaqt he has a ton of virulent followers egging him on.

He won barely 25 percent of Salem’s vote; most Salem voters passionately detest him. And now comes a Sanctuary ordinance that puts the city officially on record recognizing, and extending its protection, to people who Trump says must be hounded out of the nation.  The city will now formally protect them from any deportation action by the Federal Immigration police (ICE)  — will refuse to assist the ICE in any way, might even warn them of impending ICE raids.

Many people spoke at the hearing; about four in five spoke in favor, and that’/s pretty much how I saw the entire audience’s ratio of support versus opposition. Mayor Driscoll spoke, too — she supported the ordinance — as did the city solicitor and Police Chief Butler. Scant wonder that the Council’s vote was such a clear win.

Nonetheless, the vote was not unanimous, unlike the Council vote in Boston upon a similar proposal.

Whatever else moves the dark hearts of Mr. Trump’s activists, immigration is first up. It’s his supporters’ obsession, their addiction, a bilious, gutter racism into which they pour the vilest language respecting neither age nor gender of those who presume to defend immigrants’ rights on social media.

At the Salem hearing last night a few of the opposed made their racial animus clear. As one man speaking against the ordinance said, “what about the white people of this city ?”

It is assumed that the undocumented Salemites being talked of are all Hispanic. They are not; but it was the Hispanic bogeyman that many in opposition were afraid of..

Most of the opposed said nothing so crass, but the implications of their allegations — that immigrants are a burden financially, that they commit more crimes than their numbers suggest, that they endanger the city being drug dealers — could not be missed. As Lucy Corchado, an Hispanic Salem activist said when her turn came to speak, “does not the city value our presence ?” Clearly most, of the opposition did not value it at all.

Of course none of this level of opposition is true. Salem’s undocumented people work incredibly hard at miserable jobs, initiate and operate basic community businesses, take care of their kids — do all the things that immigrant communities have always done when new to America and in the same way. It was easy for supporters of the ordinance to point out the absurdity of these claims.

More serious were allegations that if the city adopted this ordinance,  it would immediately lose $ 11,000,000 in Federal dollars which most agree are badly needed. Three of the four opposed Councillors cited this; and many in the huge audience asked for reassurance that their taxes would not balloon to make up such a large shortfall. Fortunately, the city solicitor — Salem’s city lawyer — reminded us all that the 10th Amendment to the Constitution guarantees that no Federal authority can withhold duly appropriated Federal money to a “Sanctuary City:” because, as the Supreme Court has often held, Federal immigration law is exclusively Federal, and no Federal authority can compel any other government or jurisdiction to help enforce it.

Thus the proponents argued, and won the argument and the vote.

Which is not at all the summation of what took place.

By its vote, Salem’s City Council put the city’s 43,000 residents squarely on the side of a moral principle that no Federal dollars can buy off : that all residents of the city are worthy of every protrection and succor that the city can assure them; that no matter who you are, what you look like, what language you speak or what faith you practice (or no faith at all, as the case may be), or where you come from or how you got here, if you are here, you are OURS, and we will treat you as we treat our natural family; because you ARE our family.

And this principle is no radical innovation. It is guaranteed in Massachusetts’s state Constitution, which extends full rights even to visitors, not just residents, and to ALL residents, whatever their status. Much the same guarantee is stated in the Federal Constitutions’ 14th Amendment, adopted 150 years ago.

Last night Salem reaffirmed these venerable declarations, refreshed anew and brightly born for a long life ahead of them, a life which the people of Salem will nurture and encourage, no matter who disapproves, no matter what insults sulfurous souls hurl at us.

—- Mike Freedberg / Here and Sphere

 

Author: hereandsphere

Here and Sphere is an online journal of news, opinion, reviews, advice, & bits n' pieces of everything else - from HERE to SPHERE...... Co-founded by Michael Freedberg, a long-time Boston Phoenix journalist, and Heather Cornell, a South Coast Massachusetts columnist and editor.

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