Lisa Sullivan Ballew
Melrose resident, intellectual property attorney
As a Melrose native, it is almost amusing to think of labeling my home a “sanctuary city.” Melrose is a lot of things, but a distinct and tranquil oasis it is not. Newcomers may be forgiven for hardly knowing when, in fact, they are actually in Melrose. We glide in and out of Stoneham, Wakefield, Saugus, and Malden with such frequency and ease that it barely registers. The lots are small, the concentration of people fairly dense, and the traffic at 5:30 p.m. on a weeknight reminds you more of Somerville than Hopkinton.
Still, at a time when many undocumented immigrants across the country are living in fear of deportation, we should declare ourselves a sanctuary city to ensure everyone here feels welcome and secure.
The Melrose Police can no better protect an undocumented resident from deportation than a kitchen chair propped under a doorknob. What they do quite well is protect the safety of all the people who live and work here while treating everyone with dignity. In fact, if there is one thing that sets Melrose apart, it is the love and generosity we all show each other.
When 20-year-old Gudiel Lopez was fatally hit by a car last fall, almost $18,000 was raised to cover funeral expenses and to send his remains to his mother in Guatemala. Much of the money and countless notes of sympathy were contributed by residents who didn’t know Mr. Lopez but felt compelled to help his family. They did so without knowing his immigration status because it wasn’t included in the information provided to the public. It was beside the point, as it should be.
Police Chief Mike Lyle said recently he doesn’t want people who may not be documented to fear the police, or refuse to come forward if they need help. Police officers in Melrose help people, all people, because we are a good, kind, and safe community.
We are better than divisive national politics. Becoming a sanctuary city would mean that an undocumented person living here may call 911 or their neighbor without fear of deportation. I’m sticking with Melrose, because no matter what my neighbor’s politics are, I know we’ve got each other’s backs. It’s a great community. I am very proud to call it home.
Melrose resident, Republican City Committee chairman
With our form of government in the United States, we can experience a change in executive leadership every four to eight years, along with a potential change in legislative control every two years. Change is often not easy. Here we find ourselves in the midst of major changes with our newly elected president, Donald Trump. With every change, questions arise. Today Melrose is faced with one of those questions. Should Melrose declare itself a sanctuary city? I believe the answer is ‘no.”
In January, President Trump signed an executive order which, among other provisions, allowed local police to “perform the functions of an immigrations officer.” Now, more than 200 Melrose citizens have signed a petition to declare their community a sanctuary city, which, according to CNN, is “a broad term applied to jurisdictions that have policies in place designed to limit cooperation with or involvement in federal immigration enforcement actions.”
It is difficult to see what we would gain from the designation. City officials have said the Police Department already follows the policy regarding immigration status that are set forth in the petition. Police Chief Michael Lyle also has been on record reporting that in the last 10 years, there hasn’t been the type of incident in Melrose to which the petition pertains — the arrest or deportation of someone by local police simply because of their immigration status — based on a review of his department’s records.
People will contend that a plethora of positive changes can come along with becoming a sanctuary city. Yet the only real change the petition would make is in title only. And that small change could have disastrous impacts on the city’s finances. We can’t ignore the possibility that becoming a sanctuary city could lead to the stripping of federal funding, based on the wording of the executive order. Becoming a sanctuary city could cost Melrose $2.3 million.
As with every debate, there are people on both sides of the argument. I agree with many other Melrosians opposing the petition. I don’t doubt the validity of either side, but when we look at the facts, the policing policy would not change and $2.3 million is a lot of money to make up for two little words.
Last week’s Argument: Should Rowley voters approve a temporary tax increase to renovate the Pine Grove School?
Yes: 66.67% (10 votes)
No: 33.33% (5 votes)
As told to Globe correspondent John Laidler. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.