Facts about the safe city ordinance on the ballot

  • Greenfield City Hall Staff FILE PHOTO/PAUL FRANZ

Staff Writer
Published: 10/31/2019 10:44:54 PM
Modified: 10/31/2019 10:44:41 PM

GREENFIELD — Voters on Tuesday will not only decide who will be the next mayor of Greenfield, but also answer two ballot questions, the second of which will determine whether Greenfield will be designated a safe city.

The ordinance was originally brought forward by City Council President Karen “Rudy” Renaud in July.

While the City Council approved the safe city ordinance on July 17, the affirmative vote was temporarily suspended when Precinct 1 City Councilor Verne Sund submitted a motion to reconsider. Following that motion came a citizen’s referendum submitted to the clerk’s office on Aug. 12, seeking to overturn the vote.

The council affirmed its vote in favor of the safe city ordinance again, which was the subject of Mayor William Martin’s veto. At a special meeting in early October, the City Council overrode the veto and determined the language on the ballot.

What is the ballot question?

Shall the following measure, which was proposed to be rescinded by voters in a citizens referendum petition, take effect?


That the Greenfield City Council amends the code of the City of Greenfield by adding Chapter 353 to establish the City of Greenfield as a Safe City as summarized below, and further amends the table of contents and index of contents of the code, and further that non-substantive changes to the numbering of the ordinance be permitted in order that it be in compliance with the numbering format of the code of the City of Greenfield. The Safe City ordinance would be effective immediately upon passage. Its purpose is to affirm that Greenfield is a welcoming City that 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. While the ordinance would not prohibit or restrain any City official from sending to, or receiving from, any local, state or federal agency information regarding citizenship or immigration status consistent with 8 U.S.C. Section 1373, the ordinance would establish that...

a) A City official shall not inquire as to an individual’s immigration status unless required by federal or state law.

b) A City official shall not target with legal action or discriminate against a medical, educational or faith institution in their mission of providing refuge to immigrants and their families.

c) A City official shall not initiate an investigation or take law enforcement action, including regulatory action, on the basis of actual or perceived immigration status.

d) Notwithstanding sections 2 (a) and 2 (c), above, a person’s immigration status shall not prohibit or inhibit the City or any City official’s participation in any government operation or program that confers an immigration benefit, or temporarily or permanently protects noncitizens from removal as provided through programs such as the U Visa, the T Visa and the Federal Violence Against Women Act.

e) When an individual is eligible for release from custody, a City official shall not detain nor delay the release of an individual on the basis of a civil immigration detainer request or an ICE administrative warrant for the individual.

f) A City official shall honor judicial warrants, but shall not respond to an ICE request for notification about the incarceration status or pending release of a person in custody and shall not otherwise communicate with ICE about a person who is in its custody, including providing information about the person’s release from custody, home address, work address or phone number.

g) To the extent permissible by law, a City official shall not perform the functions of an immigration officer, whether pursuant to 8 U.S.C. Section 1357 (G) or any other law, regulation or policy, whether formal or informal.

A “yes” vote would uphold the City council vote above and allow the Safe City Ordinance to go into effect.

A “no” vote would rescind the City Council vote and not allow the Safe City Ordinance to go into effect.

Is it legal?

According to Renaud in July, the ordinance has been legally vetted by the state Attorney General, and the city solicitors of Easthampton and Springfield.

What happens if it passes?

If passed, the ordinance would prohibit city officials from asking about a person’s immigration status, targeting someone or discriminating against an institution providing refuge to immigrants and their families, take law enforcement action against someone on the basis of perceived immigration status and other methods of “maintaining a safe city.”

Katherine Golub, of the Yes on 2 Campaign, said the passage of the safe city ordinance would “codify current practice” in the Police Department.

Executive Director of the Resistance Center Jeff Napolitano, also part of the Yes on 2 Campaign, said, “It’s also across municipal services.”

“Other branches of the city can’t be, essentially, weaponized by the federal government against Greenfield’s own population,” Napolitano said. “It’s also relevant to the School Department. You don’t want to send your kids to school and be worried about if your kid is undocumented, or if your kid is documented but they’re of a mixed-status family, how teachers or administration might treat them. There are instances of discrimination based on status that would extend beyond the Police Department. That’s why cities have been extending this beyond the police department.”

Is this redundant to the executive order from Mayor William Martin in 2017?

“Yes,” Martin said. “It does add some formal restrictions because of the nature of being an ordinance rather than an executive order.”

The executive order does cite Section 287 (G) of the Immigration and Nationality Act stating, “The Greenfield Police Department shall not authorize or employ any agreement under Section 287 (G) of the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) without the expressed authorization and approval of the mayor.”

The executive order would be superseded by the ordinance, Martin said, “but the next mayor could modify or terminate an executive order.”

Golub said the difference between the ordinance and the executive order “leaves it up to the arbitrary decision of the mayor of whether or not to enforce it.”

If it passes, would the safe city ordinance affect the city’s opportunities for state or federal grants?

Martin said he does not believe the city would be disqualified from the Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS) grant or state grants.

“I don’t know if there are any formal conditions to grants that indicate if you are safe or sanctuary city you can’t get the grant, but it would be at the discretion of the grant maker,” Martin said. “But I don’t believe we would disqualify ourselves from the COPS grant and be out of the running for state agency grants.”

Will the safe city ordinance cause residents to have to go somewhere else to register their guns?

“Nothing would change from the way it is now,” when it comes to licenses to carry and firearm identification cards, according to Greenfield Police Chief Robert Haigh. He added that gun registration is not locally controlled; approval goes through state regulations.

If the ballot question passes, will the safe city affect the Police Department? If so, how?

Pass or fail, “I don’t anticipate it will affect anything. We will function exactly as we do now,” Haigh said.

Which other Massachusetts cities have this designation?

Of the 351 cities and towns in the state, there are about 150 safe cities, if not more, including Conway, Springfield, Amherst and Northampton, Renaud said.

Similarly, the Easthampton City Council also approved a Welcoming Community Trust Ordinance in July, according to the Daily Hampshire Gazette.


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