Great Barrington joins North Adams, Pittsfield in offering sanctuary to immigrants  

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By Wednesday, Nov 30 News  54 Comments
Heather Bellow
The town of Great Barrington released a resolution Monday stating that undocumented immigrants will not be targeted by police and will receive the same services as everyone else. From left, Town Manager Jennifer Tabakin, Selectboard Chair Sean Stanton, Vice Chair Steve Bannon, Dan Bailly, Ed Abrahams and Bill Cooke.

sGreat Barrington — Undocumented immigrants here can rest easy: the town says its police will treat and help them exactly like everyone else.

A resolution released by Town Manager Jennifer Tabakin Monday said that like other departments across the state and in major cities across the county, the Great Barrington Police Department will “serve everyone in our community and have zero tolerance for bullying or harassment.”

Town Manager Jennifer Tabakin and the Selectboard Monday issued a resolution that protects undocumented immigrants. Photo: Heather Bellow

Town Manager Jennifer Tabakin and the Selectboard Monday issued a resolution that protects undocumented immigrants. Photo: Heather Bellow

The department, the resolution says, “does not investigate civil immigration laws, as this role falls to the federal government. All of our residents should be completely confident that their local police department is here to assist them in a crisis situation.”

The Massachusetts State Police is also committed to the same policy, according to the resolution, which was signed by members of the Selectboard.

The resolution comes on the heels of President-elect Donald Trump’s campaign rhetoric and a platform of targeting the country’s undocumented immigrants for deportation, reversing laws that protect undocumented immigrants who were born in the U.S., wall-building around borders, and other related policies.

Around 11 million undocumented immigrants live in the U.S.

A number of mayors from major cities across the U.S. said their police will not work with federal authorities to round up undocumented immigrants and deport them.

If Trump is serious, however, this will be a battle since according to this National Public Radio (NPR) article, Trump says Sanctuary Cities for undocumented immigrants will lose federal funding during the first 100 days he’s in office.

But some new Sanctuary Cities, like these in Texas, for instance, say they will resist such deportations.

In Berkshire County, North Adams, Pittsfield and Great Barrington have signed Welcoming Resolutions for undocumented residents.

Three undocumented South County residents recently spoke to the Edge about their fears since Trump was elected, and the Pittsfield-based Immigrant Center is being flooded with donations and offers of help.

“We want our immigrant population to know that local police will continue to be committed to building and maintaining positive relationships within the community,” the resolution said, adding that the town “has worked hard to ensure that there are strong, positive relationships among all groups.”

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54 Comments   Add Comment

  1. Leigh Davis says:

    Best news I’ve heard in a long time. Thank you, Jennifer, the Great Barrington Police Department, and the Great Barrington Selectboard.

  2. Leonard Quart says:

    There is little good political news at this dark moment. But this resolution is one.

  3. Andrea Jacobson says:

    I’m so proud of our town mothers and fathers for proactively taking this stance!

  4. Karen Smith says:

    i could not be more supportive or proud of this action. Concord, Lexington, the harbor of Boston and Great Barrington saying no to morons….we are part of history to quote Nancy Regan. JUST SAY NO .

  5. DB says:

    Kudos. Another reason to love GB!

  6. Maria Nation says:

    In this bleak political time this is a welcome ray of light and compassion. Thank you GB Police Department!

  7. Jeanne says:

    My father came here, legally. I see nothing wrong with making everyone do it legally. Just because you are here illegally, I do not think you should be able to stay. And receive all the “benefits” as this article states that my family works very, very hard to contribute to. Especially when we as a country have veterans who are the whole reason our country is so great, living without, homeless, with terrible health benefits.

    1. Jean says:

      Thank you. Very well said. My Grandparents and two Uncles came here legally ,many years ago. I also feel that they should become legal citizens.

    2. Darlene Berryman says:

      No one disagrees we want people to come here legally. The problem is more complicated as courts are backed up & people wait for years to establish legal status. The 11 million people who are already here need a path to citizenship. Many have been waiting on courts for so many years and are mixed status families. Mass deportation is not humane or realistic. Path to citizenship is more realistic & humane.

    3. Michele Miller says:

      It’s good to remember that slavery was once legal. Women were the property of their husbands and could not vote. Legally the land we call our own belonged to Native peoples but we chose to ignore that law. Laws are made by the powerful to advance their own agenda so which side of history are you on?

  8. mark Cohen says:

    It feels good to get some good news. This makes me proud to live in this town.

  9. Karen Lindstrom says:

    Thank you all for taking care of our immigrant population. As life long resident of Great Barrington, I feel that this group enriches the fabric of our community. I am grateful they are being protected during these difficult times.

  10. Deb Koffman says:

    bravo to our selectboard and and this beautiful community we have the privilege to live in. thank you ALL!!!

  11. Abby Pratt says:

    The New World Fund at Berkshire Taconic Community Foundation, founded to honor my father and his parents, has made it its policy never to question how a recent immigrant came to our country. The struggles of new immigrants are many, and we help them as best we can. We are proud to know that Great Barrington Police Department and the town are extending a hand to the immigrants among us.

  12. Dave says:

    Crossing the border into the US without documentation is a crime. Which other illegal activities would you like the police to “ignore”? Driving drunk? Speeding? Going through a red light? Selling drugs? etc??

    1. Michele Miller says:

      The reason people are so desperate to leave their countries have much to do with the interference of the US government in those countries both financially and militarily. If drugs were legal the narco lords would become irrelevant. Nicaragua, El Salvador, Honduras and Mexico: we messed up. Where is your compassion? You would do what you had to do to save your family from murder and extortion and I hope you would be welcome. And driving drunk is apparently OK depending on who you know.

    2. Mike zucco says:

      Love dave !

  13. Tracey Mahon says:

    Proud of our town. Stepping up for what’s right… I have no problem with people pursuing a legal path to being here in this country, given there is one, but for many of my immigrant friends it is a crazy unclear process. And I would come be here any way I could if it was to improve my own and my family’s lives. I am an asset to any community I live in and so are many of our illegal immigrants/friends/community members.

  14. Mary says:

    This is ridiculous! How is harboring illegal aliens a good thing?! They are committing a crime and I do not like my hard earned wages going to help those who are here illegally.

  15. mary says:

    This is precisely the kind of spineless attitude that got Trump elected President. Welcome everyone; your terrorists, your criminals, your indigent, your unwanted. We will take them in, offer them welfare, food stamps, the best free health insurance, and please have many children that we can support. No wonder the middle class is swiftly becoming the working poor.

    1. Diane says:

      No one wants a handout – They want a leg up

    2. DB says:

      Dont worry Mary….your new president will take care of welfare checks and free or lowcost healthcare options. Anyone who looks a bit different, anyone who is deemed a drain on the out. Be careful what you wished for! Trump got elected by those who are about to feel it the most….and i feel very sorry for you.

      When the lamp of Liberty is extinguished and the Golden Door is bolted, America will be diminished not enhanced.
      Illegal immigrants need to be offered support on a path to becoming legal….not just rounded up and deported.
      I am proud of GB and the other sanctuary cities for doing what is right . I am glad that there are many supporters here and few naysayers like yourself. Great Barrington is an incredibly generous, giving and accepting community… really pisses off the greedy.
      Love trumps hate.

      1. AW.Paine says:

        Never mind I don’t think a trump supporter is going to have a good discussion on politics at this time with all whats going on. Plus I think its a good idea to have a safe haven for the immigrants to start a new life in the USA. Some places they don’t want to go back. I know a few.
        There are positive thing and negative with everything plus hope he does not build a wall. That people should stand up say no wall. But there are other things I do agree on.

    3. Mavi says:

      I am an immigrant. Came to USA when I was 16 yrs old. I never received a handout. I got married to a citizen of United States and I did not have insurance, so I paid for my first born because I was not legal. For your information I paid to St. Agnes Hospital to a private Dr. $3,500 every month because I was illegal . Every month I had to. Ring him money . When my son was born I had to pay more to the hospital as well. I never got food stamps. I worked until I was 8 months pumping gas in NY. I did not grow up with a hand out I felt embarrassed to that kind of help anyway. Where I came from we pay for everything, even the public school. We walked to school because there was no transportation for the school system we have public transportation but nothing special like kids have here. We work and we have a lot of pride. I would feel EMBARRASSED to get charity or alm. Many people have to learn a different language and we are willing to become legal residents , but there is a problem, there is no path to become legal. You can come legal here , but you end up being illegal because there nothing that you can do unless you marry to a US citizen. If you went to Chile, you have the chance to become resident and opens the path when you invest or want to work there. Here you pay and then you get denied, or you can call in the hands of an unscrupulous lawyer who will take advantage of your fear and will take your money without any results. So I will ask for you to understand, if we don’t have a social security we can’t collect your food stamps. We can’t have any benefits and we actually don’t want them, we just want to work to support our families. The way your ancestors had the opportunity to do so.
      Last thing, not because we are immigrants’ it means we are ignorant or less educated. We are respectful to people and we are not the way we have been painted. Even those who have crossed the border have paid money to come here risking everything for a better future. We need a new ammisty, a new path to become legal so we can have people paying taxes. The way to citizenship it’s to difficult, we need a path to legalization so we can have people who are productive can become residents in USA. Thank you.

      1. Mavi says:

        I paid 3,500. Every month had to bring money to be seen till I completed those 3,500 with my ex husband. This doctor was checking me every month so besides that I had to pay for lab. I suffered, I decided I did not want any sedative so the bill would not be expensive . I paid. I am very proud this was almost 30 yrs ago. So I do feel offended when people talk about immigrants like we are coming here to live the way people from this own country takes advantage. Farther more , it’s embarrassed to go to the supermarket and see people who have manicure and hairstyles paying with that card. I would be so embarrassed to do that , but these people are not even embarrassed that is the difference . We have moral values and have a different way to live life.

  16. Claudia D. says:

    Maybe a little reminder is in order. We are a nation of illegal immigrants (except for those of Native American ancestry). Emma Lazarus’ words, inscribed on the Statue of Liberty, should be remembered:

    The New Colossus

    Not like the brazen giant of Greek fame,
    With conquering limbs astride from land to land;
    Here at our sea-washed, sunset gates shall stand
    A mighty woman with a torch, whose flame
    Is the imprisoned lightning, and her name
    Mother of Exiles. From her beacon-hand
    Glows world-wide welcome; her mild eyes command
    The air-bridged harbor that twin cities frame.
    “Keep ancient lands, your storied pomp!” cries she
    With silent lips. “Give me your tired, your poor,
    Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
    The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
    Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
    I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”

  17. GMHeller says:

    A totally empty political gesture by Liberal Democrats who dominate Berkshire County and Massachusetts politics all of whom are still in shock and disbelief over Donald Trump’s reverberating win.
    Watch how quickly these same political hacks fold like cheap suits once federal laws already on the books are enforced and these gutless public officials are held accountable to comply.

    1. Patrick Fennell says:

      Welcome back GM.

  18. Patrick Fennell says:

    Now that it is legal to break the law will GB allow property owners to forgo taxes, people to speed, park illegally, ect.? After all if laws can be ignored for one group of people shouldn’t the rest of us be able to choose the laws we follow too? Will GB be willing to forgo federal and state financial aide by becoming a sanctuary town? Will the state match our CPA request, fund our schools and help out with crime if we actually become a lawless community?

    1. william gillette says:

      If democrat dont have to obey the laws nobody does . Dont pay your taxes
      There better be criminal and financial penalties for these officials if harm is caused by illegals.

    2. Carl Stewart says:

      Patrick, who has stated that it is now “legal to break the law” in Great Barrington or any other sanctuary municipality? If an immigrant to this country is not here legally, then there is a legal process to deal with that. The process is fully operative and, as you undoubtedly know, millions of immigrants to the U.S. improperly have been deported. All that Great Barrington (and Pittsfield, N. Adams, and many other municipalities around the country) has said is that it will not take over a function that is wholly within Federal jurisdiction. Surely you do not believe that any official from Great Barrington is breaking the law by recognizing that she has no jurisdiction over the activity complained of?

      1. Patrick Fennell says:

        So when a person gets harmed be an undocumented immigrant who is responsible? If a business hires illegals who is responsible? If we play loose and fancy with the law where does it end? According to illegals murder an average of 12 Americans daily.

  19. Dave says:

    I’m curious. Does the newly accredited GBPD protocol manual state “ignore criminal activity”? What is the page number? Did Town Counsel approve this?

  20. Sheldon Hoxie says:

    Immigration enforcement is the exclusive province of the federal government. Municipalities have no obligation to help the feds enforce immigration law, especially if the feds do not give them any additional resources to do so.

    1. Patrick Fennell says:

      However our selectmen took an oath to follow the laws and U.S. Constitution. This is a good reason to remove them.

      1. Sheldon Hoxie says:

        Following the law and enforcing a law the selectmen have no jurisdiction over are very different things. I would think the GBPD has better things to do than assume the role of ICE.

      2. Patrick Fennell says:

        The feds have no obligation to help fund local projects like affordable housing and school grants either. Based on GB’s lawlessness the citizens have no obligation to follow laws either.

      3. DB says:

        Tyranny. When injustice becomes law, then resistance becomes duty..Thomas Jefferson knew it back then and it has not changed and will not. It is your duty as an American to stand up to tyranny and forward liberty.
        Bravo selectpeople!

      4. Patrick Fennell says:

        DB is that your real name? Or are you just a coward?

  21. Joanne Rogovin says:

    Thank you for your timely and courageous action. We all need to step up to the challenges to freedom and safety for all.

  22. mary says:

    Give it a few years; when crime goes up as it inevitably will, Great Barrington will be wondering why they did such an irresponsible thing. Glad I don’t live in South County anymore.

    1. michele miller says:

      Apparently you don’t rely on facts either.

  23. Daniel Klein says:

    It makes me incredibly proud to live in a town whose selectmen unanimously passed a ‘Sanctuary’ resolution pledging our immigrant population that we will do everything we can to protect them.
    In a time when many of us fear our national government has fallen into the hands of hateful people, acting locally — with decency and courage — may be our most effective response.

  24. Carl Stewart says:

    Those who have commented in opposition to the decision by the town of Great Barrington…and hundreds, if not thousands, of other municipalities throughout the country…miss the point when they claim that we should not tolerate criminal behavior which, in the case of immigrants who are in this country without some official legal status, is the crime of being here without proper authorization. The argument, as stated, seems to be that if we allow this criminal behavior what other crimes will we tolerate?

    The point being missed…among several…is that there is a very long tradition in this country of what is known as prosecutorial discretion. What this means is that prosecutors…district attorneys, States’ attorneys, Federal prosecutors…have never prosecuted all possible crimes that are brought to their attention. Many decades ago, I was a Department of Justice attorney in one of the largest U.S. Attorney’s offices in the country. Not one case…not a single one… brought to us by the many agencies for which we were the prosecutorial arm was presented to a grand jury unless and until an internal conference was held to discuss whether or not the case should be prosecuted. The reasons for the declination of prosecution were many, including the strength or weakness of the evidence, whether or not a prosecution would achieve the aims of a fair and impartial justice system, allocation of resources, etc. In short, a wide range of justifiable reasons would often lead to the office declining to charge the potential defendant. This is not at all unusual and we see the idea of prosecutorial discretion practiced on a regular basis by our District Attorney, David Capeless, who is not known for being “soft” on crime. How many of you want your sons and daughters charged with possession or sale of narcotics? Yet, it is well known that a significant percentage of young people in Berkshire County are involved in the use and sale of prohibited drugs. How many of you believe that your sons, daughters, nieces, and nephews should be prosecuted for having a drink before they have reached the age of 21? Are the police departments being remiss in their duties by not arresting everyone who violates the criminal statutes relating to alcohol and drugs? Is the District Attorney violating his oath to uphold the Constitution and the law of the land by declining to prosecute these crimes?

    And one more important point: Being in this country without proper documentation is not a crime that can be prosecuted by the county or the city or the Commonwealth. Federal law enforcement has the sole and exclusive power to prosecute. Great Barrington has not said that it will not prosecute for indeed it does not have the power to prosecute. The municipal authorities have simply said that they will not do the work that is properly that of the very large immigration and Customs Enforcement offices. And for those of you who think it is the civic and moral responsibility of the citizenry to report criminal activity, then you have the right to contact ICE and inform that agency of the presence of illegal immigrants in the community. But please, also remember to report that you may have committed tax fraud on your last few Federal and State income tax returns or that you have served alcohol to someone under the age of 21, etc.

    And finally, Patrick Fennell and anyone else who disagrees with my position, why don’t you try to address your disagreement civilly and not by attacking me personally. I can understand and appreciate another view of the issue, but not name calling.

    1. Patrick Fennell says:

      Thin skin?

      1. michele miller says:

        I think Carl Stewart’s thoughtful response deserves our support. Mr Fennell lives in a permanent state of non fact based outrage directed not at those who are the cause of his unhappy life but at those who are working hard to improve their lives. So un-Christian.

  25. Stephen Cohen says:

    I’m not sure what Mr. Fennel’s point is. Is he suggesting that we devote our tax dollars to perform a function which is uniquely a federal matter? Is his suggestion that our police force begin to enforce federal law in addition to their normal law enforcement duties? If this is the case I am positive he would vote for the substantial tax increases necessary to increase our department so that they could perform the as a local level immigration service. Also, he would probably be glad to increase our District Attorney’s budget so they could address the new cases resulting from the increased volumn of arrests, as well as the increases necessary to house, and feed these dangerous individuals while they are awaiting transit to ICE detention. It makes me so proud to see that most of us are not willing to act as informants to deport our neighbors; hard working men, women and children who pay taxes, have a crime rate overall more than two times less than the rest of us, and are an integral part of our community. Shame on you Mr. Fennel.

    1. Patrick Fennell says:

      Stephen you are willing to take guns away from American legal gun owners and yet go over backwards for illegals rights. Is it for the democratic votes on electin years?

      1. Carl Stewart says:

        Mr. Fennell—‘

        Were you responding to an unpublished comment by Stephen Cohen, because he doesn’t mention either guns or the “rights” of immigrants in this country without benefit of law in his post? Your desire to make known your support of what you believe the 2nd Amendment holds is understandable, but don’t you think you should wait until there is an appropriate comment to which you could respond? There is enough cognitive dissonance in the world for you not to add unnecessarily to it.

  26. David ceviche says:

    Why is it that every country that welcomes in Muslims with open arms is paid back with destruction and body count.

    1. michele miller says:

      More people die of gun violence and car accidents than have ever died here from attacks by a religious minority unless you count the genocide of the Native populations by illegal aliens on the Mayflower and their followers. Murder is murder even under the guise of the”law”.

    2. Mike zucco says:

      David is so correct !

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