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Mayor McGovern Defends Cambridge’s Sanctuary City Status on ‘Fox and Friends’

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Cambridge Mayor Marc C. McGovern at a meeting earlier this month.

Cambridge Mayor Marc C. McGovern criticized President Donald Trump’s immigration policies and said the city would welcome asylum seekers detained at the border, during an appearance on Fox News Sunday.

His comments follow various public statements from Trump that have proposed to release migrant detainees from the United States-Mexico border into sanctuary cities, areas where law enforcement do not actively pursue or detain undocumented immigrants living in the community. Though it was reported last week that the administration never seriously considered the proposal, Trump reaffirmed the idea in a series of tweets Friday.

McGovern said the president’s statements on immigration “drive wedges” during a Sunday morning segment of “Fox and Friends.”

“At the end of the day, we have to have a real conversation and understand that these folks seeking asylum are people,” McGovern said. “They are not cargo.”

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McGovern fielded questions from “Fox and Friends” hosts Ed Henry and Peter “Pete” B. Hegseth related to sanctuary cities, immigrant asylum policy, and the construction of a border wall. He also addressed what he said are the “misconceptions” about sanctuary cities, citing legal procedures and federal cooperation the city follows when law enforcement find that an immigrant has committed a crime.

“We are a welcoming city and we will welcome anyone who comes to our city,” he said.

In an interview with The Crimson Monday, McGovern said he felt “obligated” to appear on Fox, adding that he wanted to “offer a take” that might not otherwise be presented.

“I'm certainly never afraid to talk to anybody about these important issues and my position,” he said. “Let's have some thoughtful, planned conversation about how we're going to help people. That's what we should be having, not inflammatory tweets that are politically motivated.”

Cambridge has held sanctuary city status since 1985. The city government also works with local nonprofits to coordinate “Know Your Rights” trainings about immigration law, provide information about available services, and assist with legal services and counseling needs for its immigrant population.

Philip L. Torrey, managing attorney of the Harvard Immigration and Refugee Clinic, praised the work that local organizations do to support immigrants living in the Greater Boston area in the face of Trump’s anti-immigrant rhetoric.

“[The president] purposely terrorizes the immigrant community, but I think, on a positive note, a lot of the local policies here and a lot of the work done by the immigrant community themselves and other organizations have really fought back against that pretty effectively,” Torrey said. “People are mobilized, people are getting out there, they’re making sure they know their rights, they’re seeking legal counsel when they can.”

Geeta Pradhan — president and CEO of the Cambridge Community Foundation, a non-profit charity that supports local residents — called McGovern’s appearance on Fox “bold,” and said she was pleased to see him defend Cambridge's role as a sanctuary city. She said her foundation seeks to support immigrants from a “humanitarian perspective,” in order to put “partisan issues aside.”

“This isn't an issue of Republican versus Democratic,” Pradhan said. “And so my hope is that as we bring the humanity of this closer to people, they will act, they will do what they can, what is in their capacity to help.”

Pradhan also cited the United Legal Defense Fund for Immigrants established last month by the cities of Cambridge and Somerville in partnership with the CCF. The fund raises and distributes funds to cover legal costs for immigrants, and are distributed to local non-profit organizations.

In the Fox and Friends segment, McGovern said he hopes lawmakers can find common ground over how to reform the immigration system.

“I don't think anyone — Democrat, Republican, right, left — is going to say that we have an immigration system that's working right now, I think we all agree on that,” he said. “The question is, how are we going to fix it?”

— Declan J. Knieriem can be reached at declan.knieriem@thecrimson.com. Follow him on Twitter at @DeclanKnieriem.

— Katelyn X. Li can be reached at katelyn.li@thecrimson.com. Follow her on Twitter at @KatelynLi2.

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