Q&A on Newton "Welcoming City" Ordinance protecting immigrants [Updated-Congratulations]

Remember our values during this difficult time.

Remember our values during this difficult time.

A "Sanctuary City" ordinance that was supported by the Newton Democratic City Committee, 19 Newton City Councilors, the Mayor of Newton, the Newton Chief of Police and other organizations such as the ACLU, the Massachusetts Immigrant and Refugee Advocacy Coalition and the Matahari Womens Workers' Center has passed! Thank you to all who were involved with this campaign. 

Click here to see the February 8 version of the ordinance
(there have been some minor updates to the language by Councilors since February 8)

Frequently Asked Questions about Making Newton a Welcoming City

We believe that docket #443-16(3) is the best way to maintain Newton as a community that embraces diversity, and to prevent illegal federal encroachment upon areas that are within Newton’s rights as a City.

Below is a list of questions and concerns to this ordinance based on ill-founded, unproven, and misguided objections with responses to each concern

  1. What will the Welcoming City Ordinance do?

The Welcoming City Ordinance will help protect immigrants living peaceful productive lives among us from wholesale arrest and deportation.  The ordinance focuses city resources for public safety, a priority of city government and supports the community policing practices currently in Newton

  1. Won’t this make Newton more dangerous?

No. Cities like Somerville, Cambridge, Boston and Amherst have had similar ordinances in place for years. They remain as safe as before and their chief law enforcement officers support it.

 An analysis of FBI crime data by Tom Wong, a professor of political science at the University of California at San Diego, finds that counties designated as “sanctuary” areas by ICE typically experience significantly lower rates of all types of crime, including lower homicide rates, than comparable non-sanctuary counties. The analysis was published by the Center for American Progress, a progressive think tank.

3) If the federal government tells Newton to round up undocumented immigrants, is Newton breaking the law if it doesn’t?

NO. In fact the opposite is true. It’s against the law for the federal government to order Newton to participate in such a roundup. As the U.S, Supreme Court held in the Printz case “the Federal Government’s power would be augmented immeasurably and impermissibly if it were able to impress into its service … the police officers of the 50 states.” Justice Scalia, 1992.

4) Won’t dangerous immigrant felons pour into Newton because they’ll be free from arrest and prosecution?

Absolutely untrue. The Newton Police Department’s track record of pursuing and arresting perpetrators of serious crime is second to none. The Welcoming City Ordinance specifically calls for cooperation with federal immigration authorities when those perpetrators are illegal immigrants.

Those who are dangers to society will always be pursued by our Police Department, regardless of immigration status.  The data referred to in question 2 above reinforces that crime does not go up in areas that protect undocumented immigrants.

5) Won’t we risk losing federal funds if we don’t comply?

NO. The Tenth Amendment protects us from this kind of federal arm-twisting. As Chief Justice Roberts wrote in the Sebelius case, “When Congress threatens to terminate other grants as a means of pressuring the States to accept a program, the legislation runs counter to this Nations system of federalism.”

Trump’s blanket withholding of funds is more than coercive it is an unconstitutional action which the Robert’s court rejects.

  1. Will Welcoming City Ordinance mean police will have to violate their oath?

The opposite is true.  For two important reasons: First, the Welcoming City Ordinance is an expression of the constitutional right of Newton and Massachusetts to be free from unlawful federal coercion. All who abide by that ordinance are fulfilling their oath’s duty to “bear true faith and allegiance to the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.”

Second, complying with an ICE detainer request to keep an immigrant in jail for longer than is otherwise permitted under Massachusetts law a is violation of the fourth amendment, and a violation of their oath “to support the Constitution of the United States.”

Several jurisdictions have been sued for keeping people jailed pursuant to an ICE detainer request beyond the period of lawful detention, and have been found liable, and have been forced to pay large fines.

  1. What if ICE asks us to keep an immigrant in jail?

Detaining an immigrant for longer than is permitted under Massachusetts law, even pursuant to an ICE detainer request, violates the fourth amendment of the US Constitution, and is contrary to an official’s oath “to support the Constitution of the United States.”

  1. How will the Welcoming City Ordinance affect Community Policing?

Community policing depends upon trust, mutual respect and two-way communication between city officials and all members of our community. The Welcoming City ordinance will strengthen those bonds. Participation in a wholesale roundup of immigrants will sever them.