Supporting Sanctuary Status in Lawrence Only Creates a More Insecure Community

Former City Councilor and School Committeeman Kenneth Willette now IN the West End Council Race.
Former Councilor Ken Willette

In reaction to the misinformed and ill-conceived vote recently taken by the Lawrence City Council to create a so-called sanctuary community, I wanted to express my major disappointment as it sends a dangerous message that criminals will be provided a safe haven for their illegal and nefarious activities. In many concrete ways, these same officials are advancing the flaws of the Trust Act proposal, which would essentially establish Massachusetts as a sanctuary state as opposed to isolated municipal pockets of sanctuary. But selected communities acting in defiance of federal immigration enforcement only creates a more insecure environment that will likely be deadly to their residents.

What the City of Lawrence should have authorized instead was its cooperation with the Secure Communities program, which is designed to apprehend the most violent illegal aliens for transfer to ICE (immigrant enforcement) officials. The Secure Communities program is a federal initiative, which authorizes the FBI to automatically share fingerprints with ICE officials after state and local police agencies arrest and book into custody a criminal offender. Please note that Massachusetts and many other states already routinely submit fingerprints for all apprehended individuals upon arrest with the FBI to crosscheck for outstanding warrants nationwide.

It is completely false to assert that someone’s immigration status would be the sole factor in triggering a transfer to ICE under this program. We are talking about murderers, rapists, domestic abusers, violent robbers, sex offenders, etc. Many of them are repeat, remorseless and predatory offenders.

Despite what some critics argue, Secure Communities does not encourage profiling of any kind, but merely enables communities to conduct more comprehensive and rapid background checks with two federal agencies now rather than one. Despite what some critics contend, the Secure Communities program does not require local law enforcement personnel to do anything more than what is currently required of them, which is to protect the lives and properties of everyone regardless of citizenship status. By not participating in Secure Communities and creating a sanctuary community instead, Lawrence is compromising the public safety of legal residents and immigrants (both legal and undocumented) alike. On the one hand, advocates of sanctuary communities are bemoaning a broken immigration system.

But on the other hand, Lawrence officials are absolutely failing to take advantage of federal and state partnerships designed to tackle many problems of illegal immigration in the first place. They cannot have it both ways.

When Lawrence turns a blind eye to this criminal element, how will people in the shadows have confidence to come forward and report crimes? What the City of Lawrence has done will do more harm than good, not only within city limits but across the Merrimack Valley as well. It is a shame that unproven statements, baseless accusations of ethnic profiling and unwarranted emotional outbursts will override facts and proven crime fighting methods and statistics.