Now an endorsement for the so-called Salem Sanctuary ballot issue. This is a matter that should never have been submitted as a ballot question, having been resolved, and resolved again, and resolved again. Yet here it is.
Some history. Last winter Jeff Cohen, chair of the No Place for Hate committee and now a candidate for At-Large City Councilor, and David Eppley, Ward 4 City Councilor and now also a candidate for At-Large City Councilor, put their heads together and endeavored to update existing guidelines for how city personnel, police and fire primarily, treat undocumented immigrants. Such guidelines have been around for decades, so long that no one can quite recall when they were instituted. These include reporting undocumenteds arrested for serious crimes to federal immigration officers, but not reporting those who report crimes or turn in felons, such as spouses and children. This is simply standard police work. If witnesses to a crime do not report to the authorities because they fear deportation, then crimes do not get reported or solved.
After much back and forth, Cohen and Eppley decide to leave the the guidelines in place, only making the guidelines enforceable, whereas previously they had only been a suggestion. In the words of School Committee member Brandon Walsh, all the Sanctuary issue does is change the resolve from “should” to “shall”. From the conditional to the imperative mood, so to speak. That’s it. Everything remains the same as it has been for decades.
The proposed ordinance went before the Salem City Council and was approved by a 7 to 4 vote. Later it went up for a second vote and was approved by the same 7 to 4 vote. Representative democracy at work. The votes were Heather Famico (Ward 2), Beth Gerard (Ward 3), Thomas Furey (At-Large), Stephen Dibble (Ward 7), David Eppley (Ward 4), Josh Turiel (Ward 5) and Robert McCarthy (Ward 1) in the affirmative; Stephen Lovely (Ward 3), and At-Large councilors Elaine Milo, Arthur Sargent and Jerry Ryan against.
Much like a child on the playground who does not his way and storms off with the only ball, the four losing Councilors on the initiative suffered a hissy fit and with help of affiliates managed to gather enough signatures to put the matter to a ballot vote. For reasons that despite much effort completely elude this blog reporter and any reasonable citizen. It is just ugly cussedness, and puts a black mark on the long and precious history of Salem to defend the humanity of neighbors.
So now there is an unnecessary vote on the ballot initiative next Tuesday. Salem may have many problems that could be addressed by the ballot process, but this is certainly not one of them.
Among the specious reasons that opponents give is that the issue has proven very decisive. True, it has been decisive, but it brings to mind the apocryphal story of the teenager who murders his parents then begs the judge for clemency since he is now an orphan. If you bring divisiveness into Salem, then you cannot complain about that divisiveness.
Perhaps there is a silver lining. The initiative has galvanized many to take part in local politics, including this blog reporter. Many immigrants and women, notoriously reluctant to participate in politics, have been roused so strongly by the Sanctuary issue as to run for city offices. These include Ana Campos (Brazil) write-in candidate for Ward 4 Councilor, Christine Madore (Thailand) for Ward 2 Councilor, Ana Nuncio (Mexico) and Manny Cruz (Dominican) for School Committee, as well as perennial At-Large candidate Domingo Dominguez (Dominican) The Salem City Council, long dominated by middle-aged white males, could sure use some diversity, and this election promises to bring some. Not that there is anything inherently wrong about middle-aged white males, says this blog reporter, himself a middle-aged white male. 😉
The last word from Salem citizen Nancy Gilberg:
The Sanctuary for Peace ordinance does something: It heals, it reassures, it unites us with our neighbors, it strengthens neighborhoods, facilitates safety, and encourages those in learning environments to relax and focus. It is fully legal and is neither an immigration policy nor an invitation for illegal activity.