From Sanctuary City to Sanctuary State? ACLU Sees Salem Vote As Springboard

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The American Civil Liberties Union of Massachusetts is praising those who turned out in droves Tuesday in Salem to vote down a referendum that would have overturned the City Council’s vote months ago that established Salem as a sanctuary city for illegal aliens.

Carol Rose, executive director of the ACLU’s Massachusetts chapter, teamed up in a prepared statement with staff counsel Laura Rótolo to laud voters who “confirmed that their city is one that values all human beings” and shot down the measure because “fear-mongering and racism has no place in their diverse community.”

The legal action organization is now hoping that Salem’s vote will pave the way for the Massachusetts Legislature to enact sanctuary status statewide.

According to the Salem News, the unofficial tally stood at 6,756 votes against stripping the policy compared to 5,030 votes in favor. The City Council had voted twice last spring in identical 7-4 votes to pass a “Sanctuary for Peace” ordinance barring police from inquiring about an individual’s immigration status. The referendum landed on Tuesday’s ballot after opponents managed to gather signatures from 12 percent of the city’s registered voters.

The “Yes on 1” campaign to preserve the City Council’s decision landed the backing of Mayor Kim Driscoll. Driscoll, who won a fourth term Tuesday, saw two of the four city councilors who voted against the ordinance fail to win reelection. The councilor who voted against the ordinance and later spearheaded legal efforts to put it to a citywide vote, Stephen Lovely, lost to first-timer Lisa Peterson.

A duo of city councilors most responsible for crafting and pushing the original ordinance, at-large candidate David Eppley and “No Place For Hate” committee chairman Jeff Cohen, finished fifth and last, respectively, keeping them off the council, as well.

Rose and other ACLU representatives claimed that those who collected signatures and pushed for the referendum constituted a “small group of vocal opponents” that looked to “give a green light to discrimination.”

“Yesterday’s vote confirms what we already knew about Massachusetts:  our cities and towns are welcoming communities that stand up to racism and discrimination and that we value our immigrant friends and neighbors,” the statement noted.

The ACLU of Massachusetts also made it clear in its Wednesday morning statement that the organization sees Salem’s vote as a springboard for enacting similar legislation statewide, a direct shot against one of the central themes of President Donald Trump’s law-and-order agenda.

“The Salem vote also underscores the need for Massachusetts to adopt a statewide policy to protect our communities from the Trump deportation machine, rather than relying on the existing patchwork of policies that vary from city to city,” the organization announced. “Today we once again call on the Massachusetts Legislature to pass the Safe Communities Act, which would ensure that all cities are as welcoming as Salem has shown itself to be.”

The legislation, sponsored by state Senator Jamie Eldridge (D-Acton), received a hearing from the joint Committee on Public Safety and Homeland Security in June and has yet to receive the final recommendation needed to advance it to the floor for a vote.