It’s back. Greenfield’s “Safe City Ordinance,” which was voted down in a 6-4 vote in 2017, has been proposed once again by City Councilor Karen “Rudy” Renaud. The ordinance, which would prohibit city officials from asking about a person’s immigration status or to take law enforcement action against someone due to their perceived immigration status, became something of a rallying cry after its original defeat. Two hundred residents came to the council meeting where it was voted on, and 70 residents spoke about it, the vast majority in support.
As the mistreatment of undocumented immigrants and refugees intensifies at our southern border, and the Trump Administration cuts off aid to countries people are fleeing — further exacerbating problems with gang violence in Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador — offering a welcoming place for those who are here is vital.
And for Greenfield officials, listening to the will of the city’s voters should be a priority, as well.
That August 2017 vote killing the ordinance sparked a backlash in the 2017 elections. Progressive candidates Timothy Dolan, Sheila Gilmour, Otis Wheeler, and Douglas Mayo all committed to supporting the ordinance, should it come back for a vote, and all were elected. Of the six candidates who opposed the original ordinance, only three remain on the Council — Vern Sund, Isaac Mass, and Wanda Pyfrom.
Renaud’s renewed and revised bill, which can be read at her website, says that its purpose is “to affirm that Greenfield is a welcoming city, which embraces everyone including but not limited to the immigrant, the refugee, the asylum seeker and anyone of good faith and good will who wishes to be a member of our community” as well as “to promote a sense of openness and trust between all members of our community and to let all people know that they are welcome here.” In addition to forbidding city officials inquiring about immigration status, city officials would be barred from detaining or delaying release of a person based on civil immigration detainer requests from ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement) and forbids city officials from notifying ICE about a person who is in its custody. Both of these techniques have been used to detain and deport otherwise law-abiding citizens across the country.
It has even affected high profile Valley residents. In October 2018, prominent local activist Eduardo Samaniego was arrested in Georgia after forgetting his wallet and failing to pay $27.75 in cab fare and was eventually transferred to Columbia Regional Care Center, an immigrant detention center that doubles as a mental health hospital. After more than 100 days in detention, in what were reportedly difficult conditions, Samaniego accepted so-called “voluntary departure” and was deported to Mexico, where he had not lived since he was a minor. Lucio Perez, a Guatemalan man who has been living in sanctuary in an Amherst church for nearly two years, was put on ICE’s radar due to a local charge that was soon dropped. He and his wife left their children in the car to briefly go into a store and found their car surrounded by police when they returned.
It’s no wonder so many in Greenfield support the ordinance. Renaud’s proposed ordinance will go before Greenfield’s Appointments and Ordinance Committee on Wednesday, July 10. If it passes there (where three of the five members of the committee had previously run on supporting the ordinance), it could move on to the full council on Wednesday, July 17.
Greenfield deserves to pass this popular and humane ordinance. The Council would be wise to listen to those who have been beating the drum to pass it for the past two years. And I imagine there will be plenty of people there when the full Council considers the Safe City Ordinance to remind them where they stand.
Dave Eisenstadter can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.