QUESTION: What is going on with the Safe City ordinance in Greenfield? Didn’t it pass the City Council? Why do we have to vote?

ANSWER: The city council, having heard overwhelming support from constituents, passed (and passed, and passed) the Safe City ordinance this past summer. However, a small group of Greenfield residents opposed to the ordinance gathered enough signatures on a referendum petition to get the issue onto the ballot on November 5. Putting the civil rights of a minority to a popular vote often does not end well for marginalized groups. We believe Greenfield can and will do better. 

Here is the recent Safe City ordinance timeline:

  • July 17: Greenfield City Council passed the Safe City ordinance in a 10-3 vote. 
  • July 19: Precinct 1 City Councilor Verne Sund (who had voted in favor of the ordinance) submitted a motion for reconsideration of the vote.
  • Aug. 12: Greenfield residents who oppose the ordinance submitted a citizen’s referendum petition to put the question of whether to uphold the ordinance on the November ballot. 
  • Aug. 21: The Greenfield City Council voted 8-3 to uphold its July vote and keep the “Safe City Ordinance.” Because of the citizen’s petition submitted Aug. 12, the question will appear on the ballot in November. 
  • Sept. 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. 
  • Oct. 1: The City Council voted to override the mayor’s veto and keep the question of the Safe City Ordinance on the ballot. 
  • Nov. 5: Voters will decide on Question 2: whether to reaffirm Greenfield’s Safe City ordinance. 

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QUESTION: Does the Safe City ordinance risk the safety of the city and its inhabitants by ignoring crimes committed by undocumented individuals? 

ANSWER: The Safe City ordinance would actually improve public safety and wellbeing of all Greenfield residents by promoting widespread cooperation with law enforcement from both documented and undocumented residents. With the ordinance in place, undocumented individuals need no longer be afraid of persecution if they report a crime or housing code violation, need to seek medical attention, or wish to register their child for school. 

In fact, established law enforcement departments around the country advocate for policies like the Safe City ordinance, because they allow local police departments to devote more of their attention and resources dealing with actual criminal activity and community safety rather than spending their time doing immigration enforcement work on behalf of federal agencies. 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.”

And if an undocumented person commits a crime, they will be arrested and charged like anyone else. However, researchers from across the political spectrum have confirmed that immigrants commit crimes at lower rates than U.S.-born individuals. 

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QUESTION: How does the Greenfield Police Department feel about this?

ANSWER: The Greenfield Police want to focus on local issues and keeping everyone in our community safe. Chief Haigh of the Greenfield Police has said: “It is not in the Greenfield Police Department’s purview to distinguish or determine one individual’s immigration status when encountering them within our community. All members of the community should feel comfortable communicating with the Greenfield Police Department without concern for their immigration status.”

“The Greenfield Police Department is committed to continuing to arrest or pursue charges for anyone who violates the criminal laws of our jurisdictions regardless of the immigration status of the perpetrator,” Haigh said. “Those individuals, regardless of their citizenship status, who commit criminal acts will find no safe harbor from their criminal violations of the law, and will face criminal prosecution.”

“The Greenfield Police Department will continue to uphold the values of the City of Greenfield, to provide a welcoming and safe community for all those who choose to live within or visit our City.”

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QUESTION: Would the Safe City ordinance create problems for gun owners registering their firearms?

ANSWER: No. Chief Haigh has stated that the Greenfield Police Department’s process for handling license to carry applications and firearm identification cards will not change under the Safe City Ordinance. While the ordinance will prevent city officials from asking for an individual’s immigration status, it will NOT prevent city departments from asking about citizenship for the purposes of firearm registration, veterans benefits, marriage, etc. Fears that the Safe City Ordinance would create obstacles for gun owners are completely unfounded.

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QUESTION: How does the Safe City ordinance help protect the humanity of our community?

ANSWER: Now more than ever, as the Trump administration continues to target immigrants and their families, we must stand up and protect our immigrant and minority neighbors, who strengthen and contribute to our communities and–like all members of our community–deserve dignity and respect. As Conway resident Judith Atkinson said in support of passing a similar by-law in her town, there is nothing criminal about leaving one’s home in search of survival and 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

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QUESTION: How would the Safe City ordinance impact Greenfield’s economy?

ANSWER: According to research conducted at the University of California-San Diego, counties that limit collaboration with federal immigration agencies tend to have higher average income, lower poverty rates, and lower unemployment rates, and these effects are most pronounced in smaller and more rural counties. There are hundreds of counties, cities, and towns across the United States who have implemented similar policies, beginning in 1971 in Berkeley, California, and none has seen negative economic impacts. 

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QUESTION: Will keeping the Safe City ordinance result in the loss of federal funding?

ANSWER: While Trump has threatened to pull funding from communities that pass such ordinances, those threats have been overwhelmingly ruled unconstitutional by courts all over the U.S. There is no legal basis nor precedent for the City of Greenfield to lose any federal funding if the ordinance is passed. 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

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QUESTION: Does the Safe City ordinance make Greenfield a “sanctuary city”?

ANSWER: There is no single definition of a “sanctuary city,” and the phrase itself is misleading. Anyone suspected of criminal activity will still be arrested and prosecuted. Being a Safe City does not mean that people engaging in actual criminal activity can “hide” here. (It is important to note that being undocumented is not a criminal offense; it is a civil offense, like a parking ticket.)

Also, every place in the U.S. is subject to federal immigration enforcement, regardless of “sanctuary” or safe city status. The Trump administration defines a sanctuary city as one that 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 simply means that local officials won’t do federal law enforcement agencies’ work for them. Federal agencies will still be able to do their job; communities cannot stop them. The ordinance specifically cites the relevant federal law, 8 USC 1373, and clarifies that in passing the ordinance, Greenfield does not violate that law. 

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QUESTION: Does the Safe City ordinance prevent law enforcement from cooperating with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE)?

ANSWER: The Safe City ordinance mandates that local law enforcement officials do not honor civil detainers from ICE that are based solely on an individual’s immigration status; this is already the regular practice of the Greenfield police. However, criminal warrants must and will be honored, and individuals that are suspected of criminal activity will be held accordingly. Again, being a Safe City does not shield individuals from the law if they are suspected of being responsible for criminal activity. 

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QUESTION: Will the Safe City ordinance prohibit ICE from coming into Greenfield to remove undocumented immigrants?

ANSWER: 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 no law or policy established by a municipality or state government may preempt the laws of the federal government.