Cambridge reaffirmed its status as a “sanctuary city” for undocumented
immigrants Monday, resolving to protect residents from deportation by
the federal government or discrimination because of immigration status.
Nearly 50 immigrants and advocates came to City Hall to
express support for the resolution, which City Councillors passed
unanimously in a roll-call vote.
The resolution was proposed in response to HR-4437, a bill
sponsored by Rep. F. James Sensenbrenner Jr., R-Wisc., and passed by
the House of in December.
Under the Sensenbrenner bill, anyone who helps an
undocumented immigrant remain in the U.S.—“knowing or in reckless
disregard of the fact that such person is an alien”—could face up to 20
years in prison.
The bill would also increase the number of patrols and canine detection teams at the country’s borders.
The Cambridge resolution charges that this bill contains
“counterproductive, misguided measures, including...erosion of
cherished legal traditions such as due process.”
Nor does the resolution offer support for a guest worker
program, such as that proposed by President Bush. It says that this
“would create a second-class citizenry without basic rights that would
be disenfranchised and would be vulnerable to exploitation by
Gabriel Camacho, a regional organizer for the American Friends
Service Committee in Cambridge, said Monday that the Sensenbrenner bill
contains “proposals that mirror the language of the 1850s Fugitive
Slave Act” which made it a crime to harbor or support a runaway slave.
The city first declared itself a “sanctuary city” on April 8,
1985, when large numbers of refugees fleeing the war in El Salvador
arrived in Cambridge and were denied political asylum and threatened
“Those people came really fearing they would die if they went
back,” said Alice Wolf, a state representative and former Cambridge
mayor, who sponsored the original sanctuary city resolution.
While they acknowledged that most undocumented immigrants are
now economic migrants, many speakers at Monday’s meeting blamed
hypocritical policies of the American government for the immigration
Councillor Craig Kelley reminded the council that the symbolic
value of the sanctuary city resolution will be irrelevant if affordable
housing and strong public services are not available in Cambridge.
Cambridge resident Robert LaTrémouille was more critical about
the validity of the resolution, which was discussed for nearly two
In an interview yesterday, he said the council should not concern itself with symbolic resolutions about national politics.
“It’s a smokescreen, so people will not see the really terrible
things they do on their own turf,” he said. “We need to understand that
the things we control are the things we pay for.”
This is not Cambridge’s first gesture of civil disobedience.
On June 17, 2002, the council passed a resolution declaring that
Cambridge would not cooperate with the Department of Homeland Security
to enforce provisions of the USA PATRIOT act which violate citizens’
—Staff writer Virginia A. Fisher can be reached at email@example.com.