By Seth Daniel
Marching up Broadway, a host of residents made their way from the Chelsea Collaborative to City Hall with signs in hand.
The signs didn’t call for justice or didn’t highlight any indignity.
They simply said ‘Thank you.’
The man they were thanking was City Manager Tom Ambrosino.
As news of new executive orders from President Donald Trump came down late last Wednesday, Jan. 25, regarding new border security and enhanced apprehension procedures for those in the country illegally – including stipulations regarding defunding Sanctuary Cities like Chelsea – City Manager Tom Ambrosino was steadfast in his commitment to the community and the community here illegally.
In interviews with the Chelsea Record and Spanish-language news outlets, he stipulated that Chelsea would not change its status even with the new orders.
“The decision by the President will have no impact on the City’s treatment of nor policy toward immigrants in Chelsea, documented or undocumented,” he said last week. “All will continue to be treated with dignity and respect. While we are disappointed in the actions of the President, particularly if they cost us the loss of federal funds, our core values are not for sale. We will not change our policies. Working closely with the City Council, we will find a way to make up for any loss of federal dollars.”
On Thursday, Jan. 26, a group of about 30 marched up to City Hall to simply say ‘Thank you.’
“Chelsea, United, we’ll never be defeated,” the marchers, both young people and adults, made their cry heard throughout Bellingham Square.
“In the short time you’ve been here, you’ve shown you how much you care for everyone,” said Gladys Vega, director of the Collaborative. “You have stood by us. We want to thank you.”
Ambrosino said he would not back off of the City’s Sanctuary City status unless ordered to by the City Council, which he said would likely never happen.
“The City leaders in Chelsea, whether management, the City Council, the Police Chief and the Superintendent of Schools, we’re all in this for one reason only – to make the lives of the people who live here better,” he said. “That’s the case whether you’ve lived here for generations or you just came over the border recently. We want to make thing for all of you better, things like good schools, good jobs, safe neighborhoods and clean streets. That’s what we’re in the business to do. That philosophy caused the City Council to designate Chelsea a Sanctuary City in the first place so that everyone could feel safe.
“I can’t predict what’s going to happen and I don’t know if the City will lose all of our federal funding,” he continued. “I can tell you this. No matter what happens, this City will endure and we will never ever change our core value of welcoming all immigrants – documented or undocumented. If you’ve settled in Chelsea and your only sin is you crossed a border without paperwork in order to provide a better life for you and your children, then your City leaders in Chelsea will do everything possible to protect you. You can count on that.”
Ambrosino said this week he wasn’t certain what, if any, federal funding would be blocked from Chelsea for its Sanctuary City status.
Last week, he postulated that the Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) of about $800,000 could be targeted, as could some grant funding from the U.S. Justice Department.
It was uncertain if any policing grants for the Chelsea Police, or whether any Fire Department grants would be compromised. The Fire Department is preparing to apply for a federal SAFER grant in order to add to the numbers of firefighters in the ranks. It was highly likely that the City would get that grant, but now many question whether the City will even be considered as an applicant.
Supt. of Schools Mary Bourque said none of her federal funding has been targeted as of now.
She said there is about $11 million of federal funds that flow to the Chelsea Public Schools.
“At this point, education funds have not been explicitly named as part of any funds being threatened,” she said. “However, we are keeping in close contact with our legislators and my federal professional association of student superintendents…My funding is probably less threatened than the Fire Department or Police Department.”