Why Support Safe Communities?
First, what are “Safe Communities”?
There is no single legal definition of a “Safe Communities” policy, which other cities and states interchangeably refer to as “Trust Acts,” “Freedom Cities,” or “Sanctuary Cities.” Each of these terms simply refers to a set of policies intended to specify local law enforcement’s involvement with federal immigration forces and to build trust between law enforcement and all residents, documented and undocumented.
We choose to use “Safe Communities” instead of the term “Sanctuary City” because we feel the latter can be misleading. According to the American Immigration Council:
“The term ‘sanctuary city’ is often used incorrectly to describe trust acts or community policing policies that limit entanglement between local police and federal immigration authorities. These policies make communities safer and increase communication between police and their residents without imposing any restrictions on federal law enforcement activities.”
Learn more about the history of the “Sanctuary City” movement, and what distinguishes modern efforts, in their informative article “Understanding Trust Acts, Community Policing, and 'Sanctuary Cities’.”
You can view Medford's recently enacted police policies on immigration and enforcement here. These policies are a great step towards making everyone in Medford safe, regardless of immigration status, but we still aim for similar policies to be enacted at a state level for even greater protection.
The top reasons to support Safe Communities:
1. Safe Communities policies make our communities safer.
Cities with Safe Communities policies have lower crime rates than those that do not. Meanwhile, crimes often go unreported when witnesses fear deportation or otherwise distrust the police. In March 2017, a coalition of 61 police chiefs and sheriffs from around the country published a letter opposing efforts to compel local law enforcement to perform federal immigration duties, stating that these actions undermine trust between law enforcement and local communities. Middlesex Sheriff Peter Koutoujian was among those who signed the letter.
2. Safe Communities policies make our economy stronger.
Immigrants contribute an enormous amount to our economy in terms of labor, tax revenue, and purchasing power.
An amazing 23% of the residents of District Five of Massachusetts, where Medford is located, are immigrants. Those residents paid $1.9 billion in taxes and represented $5.1 billion in spending power in 2014. Nationally, undocumented immigrants, who many falsely assume don’t pay taxes, contribute nearly $12 billion in state and local taxes.
Given these enormous contributions, it is not surprising that communities that protect immigrants with policies like we are proposing are proven to be better off economically. Median income is $4353 higher, the poverty rate is 2.3% lower, and unemployment is 1.1% lower in cities with “Sanctuary” or “Safe Communities” policies. In the restaurant industry alone, over 10% of workers are immigrants.
Learn more about immigrant’s positive economic impact on your community at www.newamericaneconomy.org/locations/.
3. Safe Communities policies protect the independence of local communities.
Contrary to statements by the Trump administration, Safe Communities policies and “sanctuary cities” comply with federal law by reinforcing the distinction between local and federal authority. As a letter to the White House written by 292 legal scholars explains, cities have a legal right to determine their own community policing policies. In fact, the ACLU of Massachusetts has argued that local law enforcement agencies that detain people for the purpose of facilitating deportation may be the ones who are violating both state and federal constitutions.
In a ground-breaking new ruling, the Massachusetts Supreme Court ruled that local authorities can't detain people without charges for ICE. This is an enormous victory for the Commonwealth and all of our communities, protecting innocent community members from unconstitutional holdings. It also sets a clear line between the responsibilities of state and federal authorities.
4. It is the right thing to do.
While all of this information is true, it is just as important that we defend and respect immigrants simply because all people deserve human rights. Immigrants often leave their home countries to flee political oppression, violence, poverty, and religious persecution—just as many immigrants did in the past. The U.S. has a history of exclusionary and discriminatory practices against different immigrant groups. In fact, the very same language used against immigrants today has been used for centuries against previous groups of immigrants—perhaps groups your family belongs to. We believe it is time to welcome immigrants to this country.
From MIRA: “From the Boston Tea Party to the anti-slavery and marriage equality movements, Massachusetts has been a leader on civil rights. Today we need to see that kind of courage on behalf of immigrants and Muslims in our communities”