HARWICH — Selectmen made clear their opposition to a petitioned article that would direct the town not to use its resources to enforce federal immigration laws unless police officers have a criminal warrant or evidence of probable cause of another crime.
The petitioned article was filed by Harwich resident Elaine Dickerson, who said it is part of a Cape-wide initiative to put the concept before voters. The petition is part of a broader effort to promulgate the state Safe Communities Act, which is similar to the “sanctuary cities” initiatives elsewhere in the nation.
The article asks selectmen to “authorize town officials to refrain from using town funds and other resources to enforce federal immigration laws, in keeping with current practices unless presented with a criminal warrant or other evidence of probable cause as required by the Fourth Amendment.” It further asks selectmen to “protect the civil liberties and human rights of all Harwich residents and visitors regardless of race, ethnicity, religion, ability, sexual and gender identity, national origin, or citizenship and immigration status.”
The article is not a criticism of the police, Dickerson said.
“In view of the political climate in the country right now, I think it's important for our neighbors to know that nobody's going to hassle them here,” she has told The Chronicle.
Police Chief David Guillemette said his department's officers lack jurisdiction to enforce federal law, and while they do cooperate with federal agencies, “ it's not our mission to go out and proactively enforce immigration laws.”
Selectmen on Monday night worked on shaping the final annual town meeting warrant for the May 1 session.
They were voting on whether to accept and adopt articles to be placed in the warrant. They also made recommendations on a number of those articles.
“It's not a night to debate articles,” Board of Selectmen Chairman Michael MacAskill told the audience. “I've had a lot of calls this week about articles, especially petitioned ones. The board of selectmen is voting on articles, there's no debate. That's for town meeting.”
When the article relating to enforcement of federal immigration laws came up, Selectman Julie Kavanagh offered a motion to indefinitely postpone it.
“I'm saying the article in my mind is asking me not to enforce the law,” MacAskill said. “I took an oath when elected to office and I'm not going to support it (the article).”
Selectmen voted unanimously to recommend indefinite postponement on town meeting floor.