On Thursday, November 21st, the Network’s Immigrant Justice Committee (IJC) hosted a learning panel entitled “What is a Safe Community?” The program focused on the Safe Communities Act currently being debated by the Massachusetts legislature, including case studies from towns that have adopted similar language to protect immigrants on a local level, and what the advantages and implications would be for Winchester to adopt such language.
The program was introduced by NFSJ Executive Director Liora Norwich and moderated by IJC Co-Chair Karen Hirschfeld. Panelists included Laura Rotolo, staff counsel and community advocate for the Massachusetts ACLU; Todd Burger from People Power Lexington; Barry Ingber from People Power Medford; and Anne Mahon of Belmont.
Rotolo set the stage for understanding the State level initiative to develop Safe Community legislation and how it both protects immigrants, protects the civil rights of all, and helps to improve communication with law enforcement. She clearly delineated what Safe Communities legislation impacts and what it does not. For example, the legislation will not stop ICE from entering a town and does not stop police from doing their job of protecting and enforcing the law. She also spoke about the importance of having this policy in writing.
Burger then elucidated the process behind how Safe Communities legislation (still in process) has been pursued in Lexington. He spoke to the many lessons learned to date. Ingber took this one step farther by speaking to how Safe Communities legislation is advanced via stakeholder engagement. Mahon then concluded the panel by talking about how the passage of non-binding Safe Communities legislation in Belmont has changed the culture of the town by stewarding diversity and multiculturalism. The program concluded in a Q and A session.
We are grateful to Shukong Ou for recording this important presentation. It will be aired on WinCAM Thursday, November 28, at 9 pm, Saturday, November 30, at Noon and Wednesday, December 4, at 10 pm. It is also available for viewing here.