By Seth Daniel
President Donald Trump issued a wide-ranging executive order on Wednesday afternoon that targeted immigration enforcement in the interior of the country, and among many initiatives described was a condemnation of sanctuary cities and a directive to strip them of federal funds, except those required by law.
Chelsea is one of the few official sanctuary cities in Massachusetts and has been so for more than a decade.
The order said sanctuary cities in particular threaten pubic safety and National Security.
“Many aliens who illegally enter the United States and those who overstay or otherwise violate the terms of their visas present a significant threat to national security and public safety,” read the order. “This is particularly so for aliens who engage in criminal conduct in the United States. Sanctuary jurisdictions across the United States willfully violate Federal law in an attempt to shield aliens from removal from the United States. These jurisdictions have caused immeasurable harm to the American people and to the very fabric of our Republic…It is the policy of the executive branch to…ensure that jurisdictions that fail to comply with applicable Federal law do not receive Federal funds, except as mandated by law.”
City Manager Tom Ambrosino said it was disappointing news, but one that he had knew might be a possibility.
“I’m saddened by the news, but the City of Chelsea isn’t going to change it’s stance,” he said. “This is a priority for the City and it will continue to be. We’ll find out what funding we’re going to lose and then figure out how to make up the money from other funding sources. Unless the Council orders me otherwise, and I’d be shocked if they did, we will proceed in that way.”
He said two federal grants that probably will fall under the new order would be the Community Development Block Grant, which amounts to about $800,000 per year. That money has funded park improvements, infrastructure improvements, non-profits, affordable housing and workforce training in the past.
Another grant is the recently acquired federal Justice Department grant worth $1 million. That money was given to help offer services and counseling to unaccompanied young people who arrived from Central America from the border areas.
Other grant programs could be within the public safety realms, including staffing grants for the Chelsea Police.
Council President Leo Robinson said the Council will have to look at what might be lost.
“I think the first thing we need to to is find out what federal money and grants we might lose,” he said. “That’s step one. We have to do what’s best for the entire community and function as a City. We’re getting ready to apply for a federal SAFER grant to hire eight new firefighters. What’s going to happen with that? This is going to be tough.”
Roseann Bongiovanni, director of GreenRoots and a member of the City Council when the Sanctuary City legislation was approved, saidshe would do it all over again – even with Wednesday’s order.
“I stand proud of the work we did to name Chelsea A Sanctuary City almost a decade ago,” she said. “If I was on the City Council today, I would do it all over again. Chelsea has always been a welcoming home for generations and generations of immigrants including my great grandparents and my father. It should and will continue to be a safe and welcoming space for everyone, regardless of race, culture, religion, immigration status or country of origin.”
In addition to that, the president’s executive order called for the the federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) to hire 10,000 new enforcement agents and train them to begin law enforcement actions.
The order stressed removing illegal immigrants who, in particular, had violated criminal laws or abused federal welfare programs.
The priorities for removal included those who:
- Have been convicted of any criminal offense;
- Have been charged with any criminal offense, where such charge has not been resolved;
- Have committed acts that constitute a chargeable criminal offense;
- Have engaged in fraud or willful misrepresentation in connection with any official matter or application before a governmental agency;
- Have abused any program related to receipt of public benefits;
- Are subject to a final order of removal, but who have not complied with their legal obligation to depart the United States; or
- In the judgment of an immigration officer, otherwise pose a risk to public safety or national security.