Great Barrington ‘Trust Policy’ for sanctuary status to go before voters in May

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By Thursday, Feb 2 News  21 Comments
A citizens' petition for a Great Barrington town Trust Policy that would protect law-abiding undocumented residents from the reach of federal law enforcement will be put on the Annual Town Meeting warrant. The town already has a policy in place that local police will not enforce federal immigration law, but the proposed policy spells it out in more detail. Photo courtesy War in Context

Great Barrington — One week after Boston mayor Marty Walsh said he’d harbor undocumented people in his office at City Hall and just a day after three states, including Massachusetts, sued the Trump administration over immigration and refugee orders, a group of local residents drafted a proposed Trust Policy & Order for the town to protect residents from unwarranted federal reach through local law enforcement.

This is lately what the term “sanctuary city” refers to: it is not an official legal term but rather a set of policies meant to keep undocumented residents from being caught in federal nets as they go about their lives here, as long as they haven’t committed a serious crime. It is also designed to make sure no one is afraid to call the police for any reason. Police departments view this as a way to keep everyone safe.

A map of the sanctuary cities and counties as of Jan. 26, 2017, that will defy attempts by President Donald Trump to use local police departments as surrogate immigration agents to identify and deport undocumented immigrants.

A map of the sanctuary cities and counties as of Jan. 26, 2017, that will defy attempts by President Donald Trump to use local police departments as surrogate immigration agents to identify and deport undocumented immigrants.

While town and police department policy already states it will treat undocumented citizens like everyone else and will not be an arm of ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement), this citizens’ petition – filed at Town Hall Wednesday, Feb. 1 – lays out a more detailed set of policies modeled after and modified from the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), Massachusetts Immigrant and Refugee Advocacy Coalition (MIRA) and MiGente trust policies.

The petition for a trust policy has more than 40 signatures; only 10 are needed to put it on the town warrant where it can be approved at Annual Town Meeting in May. It was drafted and filed by Gwendolyn VanSant, CEO and founding director of Multicultural BRIDGE, with partners Berkshire Showing Up for Racial Justice, Berkshire Interfaith Organizing, and Lia Spiliotes, executive director at Community Health Programs (CHP).

Gwendolyn Van Sant (third from left) with SURJ and Multicultural BRIDGE staff submitting citizens' petition at Great Barrington Town Hall. Photo: Sara Mugridge

Gwendolyn Van Sant (third from left) with SURJ and Multicultural BRIDGE staff submitting citizens’ petition at Great Barrington Town Hall. Photo: Sara Mugridge

VanSant said the organizations want to work with the town and police department “to finalize a version of this policy that is acceptable to all parties…”

The policy would help prevent unwarranted detentions and problems when an undocumented resident comes into contact with law enforcement. That’s why the policy addresses ICE detainers, also known as “ICE holds” or “immigration detainers.” This means that, if someone is released from police custody, they get held a second time over immigration status.

The problem is that these are administrative warrants, not judicial warrants that use a probable cause standard. For this reason, courts across the U.S. are saying ICE detainers are unconstitutional. Just last month the First Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals ruled that probable cause was necessary, under the Fourth Amendment, for detainers. The First Circuit covers Massachusetts.

This trust policy orders that the Great Barrington Police Department only hold someone where there is a “criminal warrant signed by a judge and based on probable cause.”

It also orders the GBPD not to respond to ICE requests about someone in custody, give ICE access to its records or facilities or participate in ICE raids. GBPD Chief William Walsh said he hasn’t seen the petition yet as it was filed only the day before.

The Great Barrington Police Department. Photo: Heather Bellow

The Great Barrington Police Department. Photo: Heather Bellow

But the Massachusetts State Police can temporarily detain undocumented immigrants if ICE had flagged them for serious crimes or suspected terrorism. Last summer, the Baker-Polito administration reversed part of the existing policy, making it consistent with national policy. State police are still not allowed to enforce federal immigration law nor ask about documentation status. The ACLU has still expressed some concern over ICE’s reach even in such cases.

In a statement from Baker’s office, Communications Director Lizzy Guyton wrote that, “the administration will continue to enforce policies giving the State Police the tools necessary to detain violent criminals or suspected terrorists wanted by federal authorities.”

Baker, however, believes sanctuary city status “should be decided at the local level, but opposes making Massachusetts a sanctuary state.”

The administration, Guyton wrote, “has and will continue to make Massachusetts a welcoming place full of diverse communities and Governor Baker will continue to oppose any attempt to cut off any federal funding from Massachusetts.”

The statement also said that Baker does not think building a wall will solve immigration problems.

The proposed Great Barrington Trust Policy also talks about general, sanctuary-type protections of local immigrants who are an “integral part of our labor force ranging from tourism, to the restaurant industry, to healthcare providers, to farmworkers, to business owners and beyond.”

Community Health Programs CEO Lia Spiliotes

Community Health Programs CEO Lia Spiliotes

Many of these local undocumented people come through CHP’s doors, for instance, and Spiliotes says, while the organization that cares for the area’s most vulnerable residents will “continue business as usual,” there is a sense of suspense over federal funding and what will happen next.

“We don’t know,” she said.

Yet one thing is certain, she added. “CHP has always been open to all, and we will take everybody and we will take care of them, and we will hold on to them — that is our mission.”

And next Monday, immigration lawyer Laurel Scott will be at the Bard College at Simon’s Rock campus to discuss how Trump’s executive orders will affect the immigrant population.

Scott’s talk will take place on Monday, Feb. 6, at 7 p.m. in the Clark Auditorium at the Fisher Science and Academic Center at 84 Alford Road, Great Barrington. The event is free and open to the public.


Trust Policy page 1

Trust Policy page 2

Trust Policy page 3

Trust Policy page 4

Trust Policy page 5


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21 Comments   Add Comment

  1. Daniel Klein says:

    Thank you, Heather, David, and everyone at the The Edge for this story. And thank you Ms. VanSant and Ms. Spiliotes and everyone else for this initiative. I feel so fortunate to live in a town that values decency and has the courage to take a stand for decency. We shall overcome.

  2. GMHeller says:

    How noble. How righteous. How doomed to long-term failure.

  3. Sharon Koperek says:

    I thank you Berkshire Edge for this informative story! So glad we have a town with compassion and great values..which is why we are “Great” Barrington! Looking forward to voting for this and knowing we have dome the right thing for these refugees! And we certainly are NOT doomed!

  4. Steve Farina says:

    I wonder how the police department feels about having to report to an advisory board ( section 2.28) of people who have a preset agenda and are not inclusive of the entire population. There are in fact people who live in Great Barrington who do not think it is wise to open the town to an influx of refugees.
    As for the illegal immigrants in the community, I know a few, and yes there is an element of participation they provide to the community including business owners and workers. Do they pay taxes? Are they on the payroll , or off books? Is their free Healthcare part of the reason mass health and ACA run deficits? How do the people who have emigrated legally and undergone the extensive process to get here feel about those who took the shortcut and entered illegally?
    Personally, I do not want to see anyone “rounded up”, but at the same time I am concerned about sudden in fluxes into the population. We cannot even properly deal with the few homeless people walking around town, sleeping in alleys and other places.
    One only need look at the stories of what is going on in Europe to see the problems with accepting large refugee groups.
    How about we leave their country and let them stay to rebuild in their own homeland.
    And, should they decide to emigrate to the US in the future we have a process in place for legal access and opportunity for citizenship.
    There is so much to say on this topic and it is not really being fully talked through. This document is something that should be revisited and hashed out.
    I don’t have the time to go through this point by point, but for instance, if this is about allowing illegal immigrants to stay in our community, then why the reference to Black, Latino, and poor neighborhoods. It seems there is a confusion of issues here….
    I am happy that people are actively pursuing this delicate issue. It is my belief, however, that more community input and discussion on the necessity and appropriateness of this takes place prior to placing it before the town for a vote.

    PS: How would the people of this town feel if that picture from the article was Main St, GB? – federal agents swarming the street because the local enforcement community refuses to cooperate with efforts to curtail illegal entry into our community

    1. Raymond Jacoub says:

      Undocumented aliens do not qualify for welfare or Medicaid (or the state version of Medicaid, in our case MassHealth).

      1. Steve Farina says:

        Regardless, according to this article:
        “Many of these local undocumented people come through CHP’s doors, for instance, and Spiliotes says, while the organization that cares for the area’s most vulnerable residents will “continue business as usual,” there is a sense of suspense over federal funding and what will happen next.

        “We don’t know,” she said.

        Yet one thing is certain, she added. “CHP has always been open to all, and we will take everybody and we will take care of them, and we will hold on to them — that is our mission.””
        I am not suggesting anyone is refused treatment, but seems that CHP receives government funding and is concerned about losing that will impact their ability to provide serice to illegal immigrants.

  5. Scott Christianson says:

    Thank you for this article and thanks to the organizers. One reason we moved here was that this is a progressive town, not some redneck backwater, unlike so much of the country right now. Having written a book about the Underground Railroad and directed a film about the Holocaust, I’m especially attuned to what’s going on here right now, and I think we need to learn from history. This is an area that opposed slavery; my ancestors fought on the Union side, and members of our family perished in the Holocaust or came here as refugees. I also worked in criminal justice. I SUPPORT THE SANCTUARY MOVEMENT and urge you to do so in support of our liberties.

    1. Steve Farina says:

      Scott, I have not read your book, nor have I seen your film. To compare our country being invaded by illegal immigrants with slavery or the Holocaust does injustice to both of those issues.
      The liberties you want to support will be dissolved by any influx of people who invade this country illegally, yes I have said it twice – invade.
      Though, as our founding fathers stated, these liberties are given to us by our Creator, the citizens of the United States are guaranteed them by the Constitution of the United States. People who enter this country illegally are not guaranteed these liberties in our country.
      And by the way, not everyone who has an opinion different from yours is a backwater redneck.

      1. Sage Radachowsky says:

        “Our Founding Fathers” were also immigrants who came to this continent from other shores, and you could more correctly use the term “invaded” about them than about the people who come to GB and do landscaping and dishwashing to send money home. There is no great “influx” as you seem to think there is, but there’s a rather small number of people who live here without citizenship or visa, and therefore are in the shadows because they’re at greater risk, and they’re doing work that would be paid a higher rate if people with citizenship or visa were to do it. In a sense there is more work being done, because some of that work would not be done if charged at a higher rate, and there’s also some job opportunity undercut from people who are citizens, but that’s not a huge thing in my estimation. It’s a sad situation all around and it’s been created by the neoliberal policies of so-called “free trade” (a total misnomer because only goods and not people can cross borders and the IMF enforces austerity upon many place). It’s a world system that’s been created largely by the Republicans since Reagan and also by complicit democrats like both Clintons, and it’s bad for everyone except those with lots of money to begin with. In other words it’s an elite-serving policy and it hurts common people whether poor & middle-class people here already and those who come across the border without government permission (as if animals on a planet need to get permission from an authority to move on the Earth)…. in a wider frame there’s no “us” and “them” between you and undocumented people, but there’s more of an “us” and “them” between the common people of the Earth versus the elite who want to control everything and use the government to their own ends harming the rest of the people. So let’s get our teams right.

  6. john lawson says:

    Our middle east policy has been a fiasco sense its conception.
    Iran is unfortunately the jewel allowing the fascist state of Saudi Arabia to rule the oil empire.
    That is the smoke and mirror with all this immigration policy, democratic or republican alike.
    We have to accept we are an empire and war profits a few rarely the masses within.
    I do not support extremist Islam or for that matter extremist anything.
    We all want cheap oil, we are all accountable, none of us want to be put out.
    War is war always based on greed since day one.
    Canada, Australia and other countries know this and work within to disengage as best they can.
    I trust Humanity will prevail.
    It is up to us in the USA to decide if we want to be part of the whole global picture or not.

  7. GMHeller says:

    Where did these six pages of detailed legalese emanate from?
    How many lawyers and how many days of billable time were expended writing this ‘Trust Policy and Order’, a highly-researched, detailed legal proposal intended to withstand legal challenge if passed by the Town?
    Who paid the bill for this extensive legal treatise?

  8. Patrick Fennell says:

    Will the town ‘leaders’ be willing to pay for the damages caused by illegals? Will teh beautiful people who signed teh partition, will teh GB police give every suspected drunk driver a ‘free’ ride home without arrest?

    1. Mark Silver says:

      Patrick, do you read before you write?

      This is not from “town leaders.” This is a citizens petition. Do you understand the difference? Town leaders don’t have the authority to make laws. This will be decided by a majority of voters at town meeting. Town leaders don’t have the authority to pay for anything. The budget is passed by a majority of voters, not by town leaders. Did you skip civics that day?

      Are you deliberately trying to confuse people or do really not understand how local government works.

      Edge, why do you allow this kind of statement? How does it promote informed discussion if you allow rants like this?

      1. Patrick Fennell says:

        So Mark are you willing to pick up any damage tabs? If this warrant is passed at a town meeting it is up to the town leaders to enforce it.

    2. Raymond Jacoub says:

      The proposal does not, nor can it, abridge the duty of officers to enforce state and town laws, including drunk driving.

    3. Sage Radachowsky says:

      I find the term “illegals” to be dehumanizing, and i find the insinuation that there’s more damages from people who are here without government permission to be a bad and harmful generalization. Just saying.

  9. Raymond Jacoub says:

    Sanctuary Cities. These are getting and will increasingly get lots of attention as Trump’s efforts to deport even more non-citizens than the previous record-holder-Obama did. The lesser-known of Trump’s recent executive orders is the one titled: Executive Order: Enhancing Public Safety in the Interior of the United States. This order promises a renewed push to enter into agreements with local law enforcement that would deputize them to help with deportations, re-prioritizes enforcement to cover non-citizens who have committed any crime (not just crimes involving moral turpitude, aggravated felonies or drugs or drunk driving), which can also mean bounced checks or driving without a license, and eliminates safe harbor for the DREAMERS, or those who came here as children and don’t even know what it’s like to live in another country. It also serves as a warning to any municipality that seeks to limit their officers from working with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (“I.C.E.”). Trump’s order, as does federal law on immigration in general, beckons an analysis of the interplay between federal and local law when it comes to immigration enforcement.

    Trump refers to two key federal statutes. 8 U.S. Code § 1373 prohibits any state or municipality from restricting the sharing of information about aliens with I.C.E. 8 U.S. Code § 1357 (also known as INA 287(g)) says that the Department of Homeland Security, which has jurisdiction over I.C.E., can contract with local governments to effectively deputize local and state officers to assist with immigration enforcement. There is no mandate that a local entity contract with DHS.

    8 U.S. Code § 1373 is narrowly constructed, and specifically states that “a Federal, State, or local government entity or official may not prohibit, or in any way restrict, any government entity or official from sending to, or receiving from, the Immigration and Naturalization Service information regarding the citizenship or immigration status, lawful or unlawful, of any individual.” 8 U.S. Code § 1373. Narrowly read, this statute does not require local cops to inquire about a person’s nationality or immigration status. So there would be no violation of the sharing provision if the local law enforcement officer never ascertained whether someone was undocumented. There are constitutional challenges to 8 U.S. Code § 1373 in the form of the 10th Amendment and the Supreme Court’s anti-commandeering doctrine. The 10th Amendment provides that “the powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the states, are reserved to the states respectively, or to the people.” Conservatives love the 10th Amendment because it’s all about states’ rights. But we are going to see progressives invoke the 10th Amendment as the chief executive exerts his federal muscle over the states. The concept is that the federal government can’t tell states what to do (such as with immigration). The doctrine hasn’t been tested in the area of immigration enforcement yet, but it’s bound to happen sooner or later.

    U.S. Code § 1357(g) is the federal statute that Trump is using to threaten states and towns over the issue of sanctuary cities. “The Attorney General may enter into a written agreement with a State, or any political subdivision of a State, pursuant to which an officer or employee of the State or subdivision, who is determined by the Attorney General to be qualified to perform a function of an immigration officer in relation to the investigation, apprehension, or detention of aliens in the United States (including the transportation of such aliens across State lines to detention centers), may carry out such function at the expense of the State or political subdivision and to the extent consistent with State and local law. (2) An agreement under this subsection shall require that an officer or employee of a State or political subdivision of a State performing a function under the agreement shall have knowledge of, and adhere to, Federal law relating to the function, and shall contain a written certification that the officers or employees performing the function under the agreement have received adequate training regarding the enforcement of relevant Federal immigration laws. (3) In performing a function under this subsection, an officer or employee of a State or political subdivision of a State shall be subject to the direction and supervision of the Attorney General.”

    It’s unknown how many town police departments have entered into so-called 278(g) agreements. It does not seem to be a democratic process that requires town voter or representative approval. More and more of the citizenry are becoming pro-active, however, at discerning exactly what their local law enforcement agency does with the federal government. The tension between local will and federal law will become highlighted, but the tension is also over-stated. Current law does not mandate that local officers be deputized to assist with deportations. Information sharing is only required if a local officer knows of the immigration status of an individual. And towns are not required to enter into cooperation agreements for deportation purposes.

    1. Steve Farina says:

      Thank You Raymond for sharing some of the legal code regarding this situation. If I am reading it correctly you are magnifying the importance of the “Trust Policy”.

      It may be in the town’s best interest to isolate two distinct issues: refugee influx/acceptance and illegal immigrant presence.

      There are distinctly different consequences to receiving a large number of illegal immigrants into our community (as well as those consequences which we have already borne), and receiving a large number of refugees from any given population.

      I personally do not think it is wise for the community to provide sanctuary for any newly arriving illegal immigrants. As for those here who are not a threat to society, perhaps the town can figure out a way to guide them to citizenship without having to “hand them over” to federal authorities.

      I also think think it would be wise to separately quantify a number of fully vetted refugees who can be assimilated by the town in proportion to the current population to alleviate, or minimize, the potential impact on the character of our town.

      Therefore, I see many problems with the way this “policy” is worded.

      Additionally I take particular offense that the Police Department would have to report to a self-appointed advisory board – aside from the fact that my personal belief is currently that they should not have to report to an outside community advisory board, if they were required to it should be either directly elected or appointed by a group of elected officials who oversee the Police Dpartment as an advisory board to those elected officials who have the authority to influence Police Department policy.
      If approved as worded, this “Trust Policy” would appoint a non defined “board” to oversee the Police Department.

  10. GMHeller says:

    Raymond and Steve,
    Elections have consequences. President Trump campaigned on exactly these matters for which the executive orders of the weeks since Inauguration have been issued. The President is not only following through on promises repeatedly made on the campaign trail, but more importantly, he’s enforcing statutes which Barack Obama pointedly chose to ignore these past eight years (and which many Trump voters plainly believe placed the nation, its borders, and safety at risk). Obama and Hillary Clinton (seen as Obama 2.0) led Democrats to their worst electoral defeat in decades.
    Carping and complaining about Trump, his Cabinet nominees, his policies re persons in the U.S. illegally, his conduct of foreign policy, etc. is not going to change anything (and hasn’t done anything to undermine the support of Trump voters who put this non-politician into the Oval Office precisely because he promised to undertake these actions).
    Democrats’ fussing only makes their leaders (Schumer, Pelosi, et al.) look small and a whiny bunch of sore losers.

    1. Steve Farina says:

      Mr, Mrs, Ms,(what does GM stand for anyway?) –

      What exactly does this comment of yours have to do with the “Trust Policy” that the article is about? A policy that is apparently headed to the Town people for a vote…
      Your comment also appears to miss the point of the comments you are commenting on…

      Are your comments intended to help heal the divisions that exists in our local community? Or are you just trying to show what side of the divisions you are on, rather than help provide local solutions (solutions that bring people together) to the issues that our town considers worthy of local action on?

      I, for one, look forward to some constructive feedback on your part.

    2. Sage Radachowsky says:

      Doesn’t make it right. Doesn’t mean that a people steeped in propaganda of right-wing ideology elected a president who is in the right on either moral grounds or on economic grounds. He’s singing to his base, with dog-whistles and with stunt-like actions, and that base will be disillusioned in a few years and whoa, the backlash, the pendulum swing. It is not a sober or sane policy. It’s power-drunk grandstanding. It’s a rampage of a foolish ruler. People throughout history have resisted harmful rulers for good reason. The authoritarian structure by which a result of an election is supposed to hold dominion over 300 million people for 4 years, whether right or wrong or whatever, is deeply flawed. We’re not minions. We’re not fully governable, thank goodness. We recognize that the government is a deeply flawed entity and that even the very concept is deeply flawed. It’s a shell game. It’s a structure manipulated by the power elite to maintain a level of control over the common people and to fleece them like sheep to bail themselves out and to keep the might ship of state on some semblance of a flotation even while it’s gushing in water to the hold. We’re being sapped like a maple tree in late February. The bailout of the financial giants who were deemed “too big to fail” while the common people never get bailed out and now there’s a right-wing electoral coup that’s having a fire sale giveaway of tax breaks to the wealthy and driving our currency trillions deeper into debt and playing hardball to temporarily satisfy its confused base while more than half the population is disgusted and sick already two weeks into the administration. Not saying i have the answer, but “elections have consequences” is inadequate on the deep and human level. We are not children or minions. We are people.

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