Greenfield Safe City Ordinance: Some Questions, Answers, Claims and Realities

Question: What is going on with the “Safe City Ordinance” in Greenfield? Did it pass? What happens next? 

Response:  On July 17th, 2019, the Greenfield City Council passed the “Safe City Ordinance” in a 10-3 vote. Two days after the vote, Precinct 1 City Councilor Verne Sund (who had voted in favor of the ordinance) submitted a motion for reconsideration of the vote. Meanwhile, on August 12, Greenfield residents who opposed the ordinance submitted a citizen’s referendum petition to put the question of whether to uphold the ordinance on the November ballot. On August 21, the Greenfield City Council voted 8-3 to uphold their July vote and keep the “Safe City Ordinance.” Because of the citizen’s petition submitted on August 12, this second vote put the question of the “Safe City Ordinance” on the ballot. 

Most recently, on September 3, Mayor William Martin vetoed the “Safe City Ordinance” as passed in August, claiming that Greenfield is already safe without the ordinance because of his Executive Order. On September 18, the City Council will be voting on whether to override Mayor Martin’s veto and keep the question of the Safe City Ordinance on the ballot. They will need a two-thirds majority (nine councilors) to override the veto. 

Claim: Greenfield is already a “safe” community, the “Safe City Ordinance” is not needed to establish that. Undocumented individuals are already protected under the Bill of Rights and anti-discrimination laws, and the “Safe City Ordinance” will encourage an open-border mentality that will further contribute to illegal immigration.

Reality: The conduct outlined in the “Safe City Ordinance” is already common practice, the intent is to solidify these practices into law. The contentious debate over immigration has created a climate of fear for immigrants (undocumented or not) as well as people of color, and the “Safe City Ordinance” symbolizes Greenfield’s commitment to inclusion and community. Some have claimed that the Safe City Ordinance is not needed, and that Greenfield is safe and welcoming without it. However, now more than ever, it is important that communities stand up against the divisive agenda of the federal government to defend and codify their commitment to equality and civil rights for all. 

Question: Why do we need the “Safe City Ordinance”? Does Mayor William Martin’s Executive Order #2017-3 already prevent Greenfield Police from asking about an individual’s immigration status, from engaging in 287(g) agreements, and from honoring ICE detainer requests? 

Response: Mayor Martin (or his successor) could rescind Executive Order #2017-3 at any time. If passed, the “Safe City Ordinance” would become a binding law which would be much more difficult to overturn. In terms of content, the “Safe City Ordinance” is much stronger and more comprehensive than the current executive order. While the executive order is limited to the Greenfield Police Department, the “Safe City Ordinance” will cover all city officials in Greenfield––meaning that immigrants in Greenfield can bring their children to school, report housing code violations, and access public services without fear of being targeted by any city official for their immigration status. 

While the executive order does state that the Greenfield Police Department cannot ask about an individual’s immigration status, the “Safe City Ordinance” will also prevent all city officials from taking law enforcement action on the basis of actual or perceived immigration status and from legally targetting or discriminating against medical, educational, or faith institutions that provide refuge to immigrants and their families. 

While the “Safe City Ordinance” would prevent city officials from performing the functions of an immigration officer, the executive order states that the police department may engage in 287(g) agreements with “the expressed authorization and approval of the Mayor.” The “Safe City Ordinance” also affirms that city officials must participate in programs that provide immigration benefits to victims of violent crimes, human trafficking, and domestic violence, such as the U Visa and T Visa programs and the federal Violence Against Women Act. 

Claim: If passed, the “Safe City Ordinance” would compromise the safety of the city and its inhabitants by neglecting crime committed by undocumented individuals. 

Reality: The Trust Ordinance would actually improve the overall public safety of Greenfield by promoting widespread cooperation with law enforcement from both documented and undocumented citizens. Under the ordinance, undocumented individuals need no longer be afraid of persecution upon reporting crime, housing code violations, or sending their child to school.

In fact, established law enforcement departments around the country advocate for policies like the “Safe City Ordinance.” According to the Law Enforcement Immigration Task Force, a coalition of police chiefs and sheriffs around the country, “Local law enforcement is not trained or equipped to be the immigration enforcement arm of the federal government. Our priority mission is to build positive, productive relationships with the communities we serve.”

Question: How would the “Safe City Ordinance” help protect the humanity of our community?

Response: Now more than ever––as migrant detention centers across the country are overflowing, as migrant families and children are being denied basic necessities, and as ICE continues breaking up families––we must stand up and protect our immigrant neighbors, who contribute to and strengthen our communities and deserve dignity and respect. As Conway resident Judith Atkinson said in support of passing a similar By-law in Conway, there is nothing criminal about abandoning one’s home in search of a better life. When we allow local officials to collaborate with federal immigration enforcement agents to target immigrants, we are inviting racial and ethnic profiling and denying our immigrant neighbors the safety that they deserve. Greenfield must stand on the right side of history and ensure that our city welcomes and protects everyone. 

Question: How would the “Safe City Ordinance” impact Greenfield’s economy?

Response: According to research conducted at the University of California-San Diego, counties that do not comply with non-binding ICE detainer requests have higher household incomes, lower rates of unemployment, lower rates of poverty, and are less likely to have children under 18 in households receiving public benefits. According to the same study, smaller, more rural communities experience the most noticeable economic and public safety benefits from limiting collaboration with federal immigration agencies.

Question: How would the “Safe City Ordinance” affect public health in Greenfield? 

Response: According to the Massachusetts Public Health Association, fear of deportation and family separation can prevent immigrant families from using public health services and getting vaccinations and treatment for communicable diseases. The climate of fear in communities that honor non-binding ICE detainer requests can pose a significant threat to the health of immigrants, their families, and their communities. The “Safe City Ordinance” will ensure that immigrants and their families feel safe engaging with local government and accessing resources that will protect the wellbeing of all of Greenfield’s residents.

Claim: Passing the Trust Ordinance would result in the loss of all federal funding.

Reality: There is no legal basis nor precedence for the City of Greenfield to lose any federal funding if the ordinance is passed. Contrary to threats made by President Trump, his administration has lost in court every attempt to revoke funds in multiple lawsuits in the past year. In November, 2018, U.S. Judge William Orrick of San Francisco declared that Congress alone has the authority to make decisions in regards to federal funding and that the President’s threats are an overstep of power. 

Claim: The “Safe City Ordinance” is an attempt to make Greenfield a “sanctuary city.”

Reality: The claim the Greenfield will become a “sanctuary” for undocumented individuals is unfounded. The Trump administration defines a sanctuary city as one that is in violation of 8 USC 1373; meaning it interferes with communication between local and federal agencies regarding an individual’s immigration status. The “Safe City Ordinance” does not interfere with this process, rather it prevents federal law enforcement agencies such as Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) from deputizing local officials. Federal agencies will still be able to do their job; prohibiting them from doing so would be impossible as they preempt municipal laws. The Ordinance specifically cites 8 USC 1373 and clarifies that in passing the Ordinance, Greenfield will not violate it.  

Claim: The “Safe City Ordinance” prevents law enforcement from cooperating with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).

Reality: The “Safe City Ordinance” does mandate that law enforcement officials do not honor civil detainers from ICE that are based solely on an individual’s immigration status; which is already the regular practice of the Greenfield police. However, criminal warrants will be honored, and individuals that are suspected of criminal activity will be held accordingly. In no way will individuals responsible for criminal activity be protected from the law. 

Question: Will the “Safe City Ordinance” prohibit ICE from coming into Greenfield to remove undocumented immigrants and prevent the federal government from ‘protecting’ Greenfield?

Response: The “Safe City Ordinance” does not prevent ICE (or any other federal law enforcement agency) from coming into Greenfield to remove any undocumented immigrants. ICE is a federal agency, and nothing established by a municipality or state government may preempt the laws of the federal government.

Claim: Passing the “Safe City Ordinance” would create roadblocks for local police cooperation with ICE, and if ICE issues a detainer request police should honor it. 

Reality:  The idea of the “Safe City Ordinance” is to prevent the detention of individuals solely on account of their immigration status–an act that has already been declared illegal by the Supreme Court of Massachusetts by the Lunn v. Commonwealth ruling. The “Safe City Ordinance” also has other provisions citywide, including preventing the unfunded deputization of Greenfield employees by ICE, as well as to prevent discrimination.