Arlington's Sanctuary Status

January 26, 2017

Fallout from the executive order President Trump signed yesterday to cut funding from sanctuary cities is already being felt in Massachusetts. The town of Arlington has recently been weighing whether it wants to pass a resolution to designate it a “sanctuary town,” but there is now a lot more at stake in that decision.

The Arlington Human Rights Commission and many town residents are behind the proposals to make their community a sanctuary town.

The Board of Selectmen held a meeting Monday to address the matter. In her testimony, resident Meghan Bailey said she was opposed to President Trump’s stance on undocumented immigrants.

“I don’t want him to break up this community by threatening to round up immigrants through racial profiling, detention and deportation,” Bailey said.

As far as Arlington police chief, Fred Ryan, is concerned, his department already acts like it is in a sanctuary town, underscoring that it isn’t in their jurisdiction to enforce immigration laws.

“We don’t train our police officers to enforce immigration laws. We don’t ask people their immigration status—ever. The only time it comes up is when somebody is under arrest for a crime,” Ryan said.

On Wednesday, White House press secretary Sean Spicer made it clear it sees no role for communities providing any special help to undocumented immigrants.

 “We’re going to strip federal grant money from the sanctuary states and cities that harbor illegal immigrants," he said."

This kind of threat puts the town of Arlington in a tough spot as it considers joining roughly nine communities in Massachusetts that have vowed to protect law-abiding undocumented residents from stringent federal immigration laws. Arlington is at risk of losing $5 million in federal funding, which according to town manager Adam Chapdelaine, would affect the town’s most vulnerable population.

“That money goes towards programming at the Housing Authority for homework aid to low-income students,” he said. “It goes to support senior citizen services. It goes toward the promotion of affordable housing. So, it’s really focused on the people that need the help most in town.”

Chapdelaine is of two minds—one’s in favor of protecting the budget, the other protecting the town’s values.

“My job is to balance the budget and provide services, so I am concerned about losing funding,” said Chapdelaine. “On the community side, I completely understand the concerns of the community and the want for our community’s values to match up with our community’s policies.”

This story was updated on Jan. 30.


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