Sanctuary for Peace



In 2016 City Councillor David Eppley and representatives from the No Place for Hate Committee prepared a request to the full City Council to designate Salem as a "sanctuary" community. Following their initial request, a larger working group of community leaders also including Mayor Driscoll, the Police Chief, representatives of local institutions, faith based organizations, immigration specialists and attorneys, service providers, and community groups began meeting to learn more about the current fears and challenges within Salem’s immigrant community, what current Salem practices and policies regarding undocumented residents are, and what, if anything, we can or should do with respect to these matters.

In the course of this review, it became apparent that much of what the City and the Police Department does today in regards to municipal and public safety operations already does ensure basic human rights and protections for all Salem residents, regardless of immigration status.

The group heard from Salem immigrants about their fears and anxieties. Presently, immigrants—regardless of their status—have palpable fear that their families will be separated and that mass deportations will involve local police officers. Many of these people are law abiding residents who have lived in our neighborhoods for decades, but now fear any interaction with their local government.

There is no one definition of “sanctuary city.” It can be a lightning rod that elicits strong opinions, favorable and unfavorable, even though many misinterpret its meaning or are not fully aware of current policies. Evidence from multiple studies shows that communities that welcome their immigrant population are safer, with lower crimes rates, and are more prosperous, with higher median incomes and lower poverty and unemployment. Salem is made less safe, not more safe, when a sizable portion of residents fear calling police to report an issue or share information.

The group drafted a document, available below, to re-affirm and codify the City’s current practices and the strong belief that all residents deserve equal rights and fair treatment. Given the heightened sense of insecurity among immigrants, it is a necessary and timely matter. The Ordinance was filed with the City Council at their February 9 meeting and they will holding a public meeting on March 29, 6pm, at the Bentley School, on the matter. The Ordinance states the following:

· Salem Police will continue to see their role in local law enforcement through a community policing lens, not as immigration officials.

· Salem public safety personnel recognize and value as their first priority the safety, protection, and security of all Salem residents, regardless of one’s country of origin.

· City services shall continue to be accessible to all residents, regardless of immigration status.

· No provision of the Ordinance obstructs immigration enforcement or prohibits cooperation among law enforcement.

· No provision of the Ordinance violates Federal or State law and, therefore, the measure does not impact federal funding for Salem.

Read the Proposal

Learn the Context