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Photo Courtesy of Barbara Brousal-Glaser, Newton, MA City Councilor / Facebook

Newton Adopts 'Welcoming City' Ordinance

The Newton City Council passed a “welcoming city” ordinance to provide sanctuary city type protections for residents with a 16-1 vote on Tuesday, Feb. 21.

“Through the City’s commitment to social justice and inclusion, one of the City’s most important objectives is to enhance relationships with all residents, including immigrants, and to make all residents, workers and visitors feel safe and secure regardless of immigration status,” reads the purpose and intent section of a Feb. 8 draft of the ordinance. “We believe it is critical to reaffirm in this ordinance the City’s commitment to fair treatment for all.”

Newton joins nearby municipalities of Boston, Cambridge, Lawrence, and Somerville in establishing provisions to protect immigrants in the community.

While other cities have designated themselves sanctuary cities, Newton has chosen to call itself a welcoming city, as 'sanctuary city' is a broad term that refers to a variety of policies across the country that may not be the same as the provisions established in Newton.

According to the ordinance, the city of Newton will not investigate, arrest, or detain any person or notify federal authorities based on belief that the individual has illegal status in the United States.

The ordinance states that exceptions will be made in cases where the individual is wanted on a criminal warrant, has a prior conviction for a serious violent felony, is being investigated for terrorism, or whenever public safety is at stake.

The ordinance is supported by Mayor Setti Warren, Police Chief David MacDonald, and the Newton Democratic City Committee, as well as organizations including the ACLU, the Massachusetts Immigrant and Refugee Advocacy Coalition, and the Matahari Women Workers’ Center.

The 2015 US census indicates that about 22% of Newton residents were born in another country.

According to supporters, the welcoming city ordinance will keep families together, establish trust between local law enforcement and residents, and allow the local economy to flourish.

In fact, an analysis of FBI crime data by Tom Wong of the University of California at San Diego indicates that counties with sanctuary provisions for immigrants have less crime and unemployment, a lower poverty rate, and higher annual incomes.

Before the vote, the Newton Democratic City Committee hosted a rally in support of the welcoming city ordinance that was attended by approximately 150 people, according to the Boston Globe.

Among the supporters of the welcoming city ordinance is Students for Education Reform at Boston College (SFER BC). A few members of the student organization attended a city council meeting on Feb. 8 to voice their support of the welcoming city ordinance.

“SFER is here to ensure that all students, regardless of their country of origin, receive a quality education,” said SFER BC president Maria Khoudary, MCAS ‘19. “If that experience is disrupted by legislation that makes uncertain the futures of them and their families, then SFER has a duty to stand up and oppose that legislation.”

“Furthermore, we care about the environments of schools. Trump has emboldened a lot of people and incited so much hate even before he was elected,” Khoudary continued. “Even though making Newton a sanctuary city won't directly stop any discrimination that immigrant students may feel at school, it still shows them that their community cares about them, even if it feels like no one at school does.”

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I’m a future elementary teacher who enjoys dabbling in news coverage of politics and social issues on the side.