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Despite Order, Cambridge Will Not Drop ‘Sanctuary’ Label

Cambridge City Hall
Cambridge City Hall.
UPDATED: January 30, 2017 at 10:49 a.m.

Cambridge, one of hundreds of U.S. cities deemed a “sanctuary” for undocumented immigrants, stands to lose funding from the federal government following President Donald Trump’s executive order stripping funds from “sanctuary cities.”

The order, signed Jan. 25, targets cities that do not prosecute individuals who come to the United States without official documentation. Trump has repeatedly said he hopes to tighten immigration policies, suggesting enacting a “deportation force” and building a wall on the country’s southern border.

Following the announcement, a number of Cambridge city officials spoke out against the order and said they will not drop the city’s “sanctuary” label.

According to Cambridge City Councillor Jan Devereux, Cambridge stands to lose more than $15 million in federal funding if the order is enforced, a sum which could impact budget items like public school programs and other city operations. Devereux and other city councillors said they are unsure the extent to which government programs would be affected.

“We’re in uncharted waters. It’s too soon to know everything that will happen.” Devereux said. “The school lunch program is an example of a federally funded program. It’s very important here. Around 45 percent of public school students qualify for free and reduced lunch.”

Another Councillor, Nadeem A. Mazen, said he agreed with Devereux and rebuked the executive orders released by Trump so far.

“What we see here is a Donald Trump who is used to strong-arming people into getting his way.” Mazen said. “That’s not going to work here. We’re going to continue to bolster our status as a ‘sanctuary’ city...At this point, it’s questionable whether or not this can even be enforced.”

In a joint statement released on Cambridge’s city website in response to the order, Cambridge Mayor E. Denise Simmons and City Manager Louis A. DePasquale affirmed the city’s commitment to supporting undocumented immigrants.

"While we do not yet know what impact President Trump’s Executive Order on Immigration will have, as a Sanctuary City, Cambridge will continue to support and promote the safety, health and well-being of all our residents, regardless of immigration status,” the statement reads. “We encourage every resident – regardless of status – to seek and obtain assistance from the many resources available to the Cambridge Community.”

The statement closely echoes comments made by mayors of other major “sanctuary” cities including New York, Los Angeles, and Boston.

Speaking at a press conference on the executive order, Boston Mayor Martin “Marty” J. Walsh also reaffirmed his support for “sanctuary” cities and said there was no plan to remove the label moving forward.

“The latest executive orders and statements by the President about immigrants are a direct attack on Boston’s people, Boston’s strength, and Boston’s values.” Walsh said. “We will not retreat one inch.”

—Staff writer Nicholas W. Sundberg can be reached at nicholas.sundberg@thecrimson.com. Follow him on Twitter @NickWSundberg.

This article has been revised to reflect the following correction:

CORRECTION: January 30, 2017

A previous version of this story misspelled the name of Cambridge City Councillor Jan Devereux.

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