Should Salem become a sanctuary city?


Alexandra Piñeros-Shields

Salem resident, executive director, Essex County Community Organization

<b>Alexandra Piñeros-Shields</b>
<b>Alexandra Piñeros-Shields</b>

The Bible is clear. “You shall love the stranger as yourself, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt” (Leviticus 19:33-34). Jewish and Christian members of the Essex County Community Organization, an interfaith network of 37 congregations working for social justice, are outraged at the targeting of Muslims and immigrants.

We are pleased Salem is moving in the opposite direction, proposing an ordinance that guarantees residents will not be targeted on the basis of their immigration status.

Undocumented immigrants are our mothers, fathers, aunts, uncles, cousins, and neighbors. They sit with us during worship services. Their children are our children’s classmates. They care for our infants and toddlers. They contribute to our economy by shopping downtown and paying taxes. I know of at least four who run businesses and employ US citizens. I also know being undocumented is an administrative offense, not a crime.

Now municipalities nationwide are being asked to use their limited resources to fix a problem that is the federal government’s responsibility. This is unconstitutional and short-sighted. When local police enforce federal immigration law, trust is damaged. Immigrants who fear police are less likely to report crimes.


This policy would tear apart families and destroy communities by detaining and deporting our neighbors without due process. In Salem, we have seen such injustice before. In 1692, those driven by fear and ignorance labeled, ostracized, and stripped family members and neighbors of due process. That violence has left an indelible mark on our identity. Living in Salem, we see landmarks reminding us of the atrocities that resulted from intolerance and disregard of human rights.

In 1992, the Salem Award for Human Rights was established to honor individuals who “embody the integrity and courage of those who dared to support the men and women” falsely accused of witchcraft. Order returned to Salem when a few brave citizens raised their voices in protest, risking their lives to lead their town to reconciliation. In that tradition, hundreds of people and over 30 local organizations have signed on as supporters of Salem’s Sanctuary for Peace Ordinance. We applaud the moral leadership and courage of our Mayor, Kim Driscoll, and Chief of Police, Mary Butler.


We stand at a crossroads. History will judge us based on our conduct toward our neighbors.


John L. Hayes

Chairman, Salem Republican City Committee

John L. Hayes
John L. Hayes

I am opposed to Salem becoming a sanctuary city for several reasons.

First, I believe that if Salem were to become a sanctuary city, we would be providing illegal immigrants with protection rather than abiding by federal law. The Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigration Responsibility Act of 1996, in addition to its other provisions, bars any restrictions by government agencies on the sharing of information on someone’s immigration status with federal immigration authorities. Becoming a sanctuary city is a potential violation of this law. And wouldn’t providing special protection to illegal immigrants be a slap in the face to those that followed the law and entered the US legally?

There would also be an economic cost to the city becoming a sanctuary for illegal immigrants. Tax money that should benefit the taxpayers would get redirected to the increased costs of police, fire, hospital, medical, and education services, to name just a few.


I think we can well remember what the stress of illegal immigrants put on the city of Lynn a few years ago. Mayor Judith Flanagan Kennedy in 2014 said an influx of illegal immigrants had forced her to make drastic cuts in her department budgets. This is just one example. Do we want this for Salem? I think not.

I hope President Donald Trump follow through on his intention to hold up federal funds to the cities and states that have adopted sanctuary status. I also saw that the Texas state Senate is considering legislation that would ban state funding for sanctuary cities. I wish more states followed their lead.

I can’t fathom how sane people want to give protection to illegal immigrants who have entered our country. They have not been vetted in any way and deserve no protection under our Constitution, which represents legal residents of the United States.

I welcome legal immigrants, those who enter our country through the established process. In fact years ago, I stopped referring to the United States as being a melting pot; it’s really more of a kaleidoscope. Each representative from a country brings talents and a heritage with them, and that benefits us all. Our only expectation is that they respect our laws and our flag. We are one nation: the United States of America.

As told to Globe correspondent John Laidler. He can be reached at laidler@globe.com.