Editorial: Find someone else to pick on, Mayor Sarno

Springfield Mayor Domenic Sarno spent the better part of the past two weeks railing against a Springfield church for offering sanctuary to an undocumented Peruvian woman and her two American children.

Immigrant Gisella Collazo’s cause was taken up by the Pioneer Valley Project, which released a statement late in March saying that Collazo had taken up residency in the South Congregational Church.

Sarno, sounding a lot like President Donald Trump, sent out an email the next day to city staff members to re-inspect the church to “strip them of their tax exemption status,” and to “pursue to the fullest extent of the law.”

The church leadership responded defiantly, stating they still planned to house Collazo and her family despite pressure from the mayor’s office.

“Our primary concern is for the welfare of the family we’re offering sanctuary to,” said Rev. Tom Gerstenlauer, pastor at the South Congregational Church.

Thankfully, Sarno’s ploy seems to have failed for now. City inspectors went to the church and found very little wrong with the living area. Sarno’s response seemed to indicate he was moving on: “Building Commissioner Steve Desilets and Fire Lieutenant Richard Martin have done their jobs and their report speaks for itself. We just want to be sure that public health and safety issues are being complied with,” he wrote.

It is absolutely important that Collazo and her family have a safe and healthy place to live, but that didn’t appear to be much of a concern when Sarno sent out his original email.

Collazo arrived in the United States in 2001 fleeing poverty in Peru. She has since married an American citizen and the couple has two children, now aged 10 and 4, who are living with her at the church.

As those in power in this country grow more and more hostile to people like her, forgetting that America is a country of immigrants and should be a country of compassion, it is important that our leaders and our communities support the vulnerable.

The South Congregational Church is upholding a tradition of more than 1,000 years by offering sanctuary to someone in need. Churches across the country and around the region are seeing the opportunity to step in and offer the protection of their own buildings and communities.

How does it look to attack that?

Over the past six months, more than a dozen seats in the Virginia House of Delegates flipped from Republican to Democrat, a Democrat was elected as a U.S. Senator in Alabama, and anti-Trump Democrats are picking up seats in all sorts of special elections.

Sarno is not up for re-election this year, but even so, he should probably knock this off if he wants to keep his job the next time the Springfield mayor’s race comes around, which is in November 2019. The electorate is already sick of the hateful things coming out of the White House, and are not likely to look to kindly on these attacks on law-abiding people in Springfield.

Dave Eisenstadter can be reached at deisen@valleyadvocate.com.

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