The city council of Springfield MA has unanimously voted to opt-out of participating in a federal anti-immigrant program that has been denounced by the immigrant rights movement and resisted strongly by governors - including Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick - other elected officials and law-enforcement representatives nationwide.
The council’s rejection of Secure Communities, the controversial federal program, came after intense efforts by a coalition formed by AFSC’s Western MA office. The resolution makes Springfield the largest city in New England to do so.
The council’s resolution urges the Springfield mayor not to sign any related immigration enforcement agreements that would deter reporting of criminal activity or cripple police-community relationships. A request for the Springfield mayor to declare his opposition to the program is being made by the community coalition that supported the resolution. You can learn more on AFSC’s Western Massachusetts Program web site.
“The city council recognized what’s becoming increasingly clear in cities and states across the country – that Secure Communities damages the fabric of our communities,” said Jeff Napolitano, AFSC program coordinator. “You cannot create truly secure, safe, intact communities by imprisoning and deporting the most vulnerable among us.”
Under Secure Communities, the fingerprints of every person booked by the police are checked against Department of Homeland Security (DHS) databases. That is in addition to routine checks against the FBI’s criminal databases. Immigrant’s rights advocates and law enforcement officials have both found these programs hurt cultivation of relationships within immigrant communities and make immigrants more fearful of reporting crimes.
Along with Gov. Patrick, the governors of New York and Illinois have pulled their states’ participation after signing memoranda of agreement with DHS. The California assembly also has approved legislation that will allow the Golden State to opt out of the program.
AFSC staff both in New England and around the country helps guide immigrant advocates with strategy sessions, written materials, press conferences, vigils, and mobilizations.
For more on AFSC’s blueprint for immigration reform, review AFSC’s A New Path.