Salem’s sanctuary-city status now in limbo

Shareda Hosein of Quincy, a retired Lieutenant Colonel in the US Army, spoke to students at Salem State University about Islam, world peace, and how to achieve it last October.
Mark Lorenz for The Boston Globe
Shareda Hosein of Quincy, a retired US Army Reserve lieutenant colonel, spoke in October to students at Salem State University about Islam, world peace, and how to achieve it.

A petition filed by a residents’ group opposed to the new ordinance establishing Salem as a sanctuary city is now facing its own challenge.

City Clerk Cheryl A. LaPointe said the petition received enough certified signatures to require the City Council to reconsider its passage of the ordinance, and if the council fails to rescind it, it will be placed on the November city election ballot.

But LaPointe, whose office completed certification of the signatures May 8, said four residents have challenged some of the signatures. The Board of Registrars will consider the challenges next week.


The clerk’s office certified 3,724 signatures, or 152 more than the minimum number required, which is based on 12 percent of registered voters.

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Should the registrars uphold challenges to more than 152 signatures, the petition will have failed. If they don’t, the City Council will have to reconsider the ordinance by May 28. That would probably occur at its May 25 meeting. Should the council approve the ordinance again, it would face a citywide vote in November.

The council passed the ordinance 7 to 4 on April 13.

It reasserts what city leaders say is existing policy: that city services are open to all and that police and other municipal employees won’t require anyone seeking assistance to show proof of being a legal immigrant. It does not prohibit police from cooperating with federal authorities, however.

Steve Pinto, a former councilor at large and one of those who organized the petition drive, said he opposes the ordinance, in part, because it could result in a loss of up to $11 million in federal aid to the city. President Trump has threatened to strip certain federal funding from sanctuary cities.


“It really doesn’t change anything. It just puts a target on our back,” said Pinto, who also says the City Council should have put the matter before voters.

Pinto said he is confident the challenges to the petition will not succeed, noting that all signatures were certified.

In a May 8 Facebook post, Mayor Kimberley L. Driscoll said there is nothing in the ordinance that “violates any federal laws, nothing in it that puts federal funding at risk . . . and nothing in it that we should be reluctant to stand behind as a community.

“It tells all of our immigrant neighbors, regardless of their status, that yes, they too can dial 911 when they see a house on fire, call the Salem Police if they’ve been the victim of a crime, get a library card, or visit their child’s school, without fear that we’re going to ask them for their papers,” Driscoll said.

John Laidler can be reached at