The City Council reaffirmed Chelsea’s status as a Sanctuary City Monday night, but not without some dissent and heated moments.
The Council ultimately voted 9-2 to reaffirm its 2007 designation of Chelsea as a Sanctuary City, with District 1 Councillor Todd Taylor and District 8 Councillor Calvin Brown voting against the measure.
For the supporters of the order, it was seen as an opportunity to double down on Chelsea being a city open to immigrants and people of all backgrounds during trying political times.
“I’ve always been very proud that we are a Sanctuary City … and this is an opportunity to reaffirm those values,” said Councillor-At-Large Damali Vidot. “The fact is that the national rhetoric is trickling down to our city.”
Taylor probably knew he was in for some bumps in the road as the lone Republican on the Council. But on Monday night, Taylor fought back at what he said were bullying efforts to silence a conservative and dissenting voice on the Council. Earlier in the evening, Taylor also came under fire from School Committeewoman Marisol Santiago for his political views on immigration regarding his selection as a representative to the Charter Review Committee.
“Two weeks ago, I made some comments about this Council when it brought up undocumented drivers, which was completely irrelevant to this body,” said Taylor. “I was wrong, it wasn’t virtue signaling. This, tonight, is really a sneak attack on conservative voices in this community and anyone who does take a different opinion.”
Taylor said it is important for everyone on the Council and in the city to have their ideas be heard and respected.
“I can guarantee, if the shoe was on the other foot, it would be a different story,” he said.
Taylor, the Republican State Committeeman representing Chelsea, said he separates his City-elected work from his work as a Republican elected official at the state level.
“If people want to have a legitimate debate (on sanctuary cities), I’m not afraid to debate it,” he said. “It’s a complicated issue … but the debate needs to be respectful and it does not need to be hateful. As a Republican official representing the city of Chelsea, I have felt extra hatred, even having people sending death threats to my phone.”
Taylor also noted that reaffirming Chelsea as a Sanctuary City would do nothing to change the 2007 vote. He added that he would continue to vote against any partisan issue brought before the Council, whether he agreed with it or not.
Brown took a different approach in voting against the order, noting that he supported Chelsea being a Sanctuary City, but that reaffirming that would not be necessary when the measure is already on the books. Brown said word about Chelsea’s Sanctuary City status is still effectively communicated and enforced.
“I’m not voting for this because 13 years ago those in office voted for it because they wanted it to be the law of the land,” said Brown. “There is no need to reaffirm it, we have it here.”
Councillor-At-Large Leo Robinson also noted that there was no need to vote to reaffirm the status, although he ultimately did vote in favor of it, noting during roll call that he voted for Sanctuary City status during the original vote in 2007.
District 4 Councillor Enio Lopez countered that reaffirming Sanctuary City status is important to help protect Chelsea’s most vulnerable residents.
Council President Roy Avellaneda said he could understand there were some questions about why Sanctuary City status was being broached again.
“When you bring attention to it is when you feel like your residents are being attacked; that’s when you double down,” he said. “We need to double down and say we have the same values we had back then.”