SPRINGFIELD, Mass. (WWLP) – Springfield Mayor Domenic Sarno has rejected a call from a group of religious and community leaders limit cooperation between the city’s police department and federal immigration officials. The advocates delivered a letter to Sarno Thursday, outlining several concerns about relations between the police and immigrants, as well as President Donald Trump’s recent executive order pertaining to “sanctuary cities.”
The group, which includes Ward 1 City Councilor Adam Gomez, Bishop Talbert Swan of the Springfield NAACP, Bishop Douglas Fischer of the Episcopal Diocese of Western Massachusetts, and Dr. Zubair Kareem of the Islamic Society of Western Massachusetts, among others, asked for the mayor to issue a three-point executive order. This order would:
- Prohibit police from asking suspects or victims of crime their immigration status
- Prevent police from carrying out detainers for Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) except for defendants with convictions for “serious” felonies
- Prevent the city from entering into any partnership with ICE that “‘deputizes’ local law enforcement agencies to perform immigration enforcement functions.”
The authors of the letter cited a University of Illinois study finding that most undocumented immigrants and many Latinos overall would be reluctant to call police if they had been a victim of a crime, if they feared that police would inquire into their immigration status, or that of someone they know.
“By enacting the policies we are proposing today, it is actually going to make the city safer because victims are not only citizens, victims of crime are those who live in the undocumented community of Springfield,” said Billy Peard, an attorney who was one of the signers of the letter.
Springfield Police Sgt. John Delaney told 22News that as it is, Springfield police officers do not inquire about the immigration status of suspects, witnesses, or victims.
A separate letter, sent following a vote by the Ward 6 Democratic Committee, asks Sarno to declare Springfield to be a “sanctuary city.”
Sarno, a Democrat who supported Hillary Clinton in the 2016 election, said last week that Springfield is not a sanctuary city, and he has no intention to make it one.
In response to both requests, Sarno sent letters Thursday reading “the answer is no.”
“Again, I am a firm believer in legal immigration, as my parents went through and are now American citizens too. The hey here is assistance programs must be properly run with extensive follow through efforts that will empower those in need, from legal immigrants to our own residents in need too. Important here, is that these efforts do not put unsustainable financial pressures or public safety issues on our city budget, residents, and business community,” Sarno wrote.
Speaking to 22News Thursday, Sarno said: “Say you have individuals who have committed crimes. I am not going to harbor them or protect them here. If the federal authorities are looking for those individuals and they are illegal, then we will cooperate.”
The activists requested a meeting with the mayor, which he has denied.