The birthplace of the American Revolution joined the so-called sanctuary city movement last night as Concord Town Meeting approved a warrant making the town a “welcoming community” for illegal immigrants.
The overwhelming show of hands in favor by the crowd of more than 500 people followed a contentious debate by town residents pro and con.
The warrant states that no police officer can detain a person on suspicion of being an illegal immigrant, and calls on police to ignore ICE detainers without a judge’s order, or evidence of a violent felony conviction. It bars police officers and other town employees from responding to any ICE requests for information on people’s incarceration status, hearings, length of detention, home address or personal information.
The town where American militia faced British soldiers in the Revolutionary War’s first day of battle in 1775 now joins Boston, Somerville, Cambridge, Northampton and Amherst as towns that the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency says “limits cooperation” with the federal government on immigration.
Resident Phil Villers said the measure has the support of the state attorney general and he claimed it is in line with the U.S. Constitution.
“We’ve all seen the pictures of babies gassed to death in Syria and the 500,000 dead there by bombings and killings from their own government,” Villers said. “At the same time the Trump administration has slammed closed the door on the 50,000 refugees from there. Undocumented immigrants are being expelled at record numbers. They’re breaking up families. Some 42,000 immigrants are languishing in our prisons, euphemistically called detention centers. As you heard, many cities are resisting this outrageous turning of our traditional values. Concord needs to uphold its traditional values and say loudly and clearly against these abuses, ‘Not in my name.’ ”
Nancy Barrett spoke out for legal immigration, opposing the measure, though she drew applause from the largely pro-sanctuary crowd when she told her story about coming here as a 4-year-old immigrant from the Middle East.
“Both of my parents endured a lifetime of religious persecution and war. They dreamed of coming to America. It was a long process to get to America. We had to wait until we had an aunt and uncle who came before us who could sponsor us to come to this country,” she said. “I’m personally offended by language in this article that equates my story with the story of people who have broken the laws of this country. No matter what my parents were fleeing from, they loved and respected this country too much to break the law to come here. They taught us to love and respect this country as well.”
Dozens of angry residents stormed out of the meeting after the town moderator cut off comment and moved for a vote while several people were still queued up, awaiting their chance to speak.
“This is an example of the corruption in Concord,” fumed David Stevens, who had written remarks opposing the measure which he said he planned to deliver before Town Moderator Carmen C. Reiss ended comment after 30 minutes.
David Marsh called the actions to end debate on the issue “embarrassing.” He said the job of keeping the town and the nation safe is too big for police to do on their own, and they need citizens to support giving them the tools they need to do their job.
“It was disgusting. It was embarrassing,” Marsh said. Referring to Concord’s ban on plastic bottles, he added, “I thought I was embarrassed over the plastic bottles, or the fact that they try to get cats on a leash, but this is really a serious, serious situation.”
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