Springfield city councilors will vote on a measure involving sanctuary at the South Congregational Church.
A mother and her two children are currently living in an apartment inside of the church because she was facing deportation.
After church leaders announced their sanctuary offer to Gisella Collazo of Springfield, Mayor Domenic Sarno expressed his disapproval.
Now, city councilors are making sure the city has no authority to interfere with any kind of sanctuary.
Following disapproving comments from Mayor Sarno, some city councilors got together to write up a proposal.
“It’s pretty unfortunate that the city got involved in this situation in the first place," said Springfield City Councilor President Orlando Ramos.
The order would ensure that:
"No member of the city of Springfield, including all employees or agents shall take any step, measure or act to interfere with, restrain, intimidate or prevent south church and the Springfield Interfaith Coalition in its mission of providing sanctuary to Gisella Collazo or any other individual.”
“Providing sanctuary for someone is part of their religious practice and it’s part of their religious freedom. So I’m of the opinion that it’s unconstitutional to try to interfere with that religious practice in any way," Councilor Ramos noted.
Ramos told Western Mass News he is not taking a stance on immigration with this vote.
“This is an issue about whether or not the city should be involved in any religious practice and that’s what people need to understand. The city of Springfield itself is not providing sanctuary for anyone. it’s a religious institution which is providing sanctuary.”
Western Mass News reached out to Immigration and Customs Enforcement for more information on Gisella’s background.
A spokesperson for ICE wrote:
"[Gisella] entered the U.S. on a fraudulent passport in 2001, was granted a voluntary departure by an immigration judge in July of 2012. After multiple legal appeals filed on her behalf were denied, [Gisella] provided ICE with a travel itinerary to return to Peru and agreed to voluntarily depart the U.S. on or by March 27, 2018.”
Now that Gisella is living inside of a church, ICE has provided Western Mass News with information about enforcement actions at sensitive locations, which include schools, hospitals, and places of worship.
While enforcement may occur at these locations in limited circumstances, a spokesperson said this is generally avoided.
“Current ICE policy directs agency personnel to avoid conducting enforcement activities at sensitive locations unless they have prior approval from an appropriate supervisory official or in the event of exigent circumstances.”
The city council meeting takes place at 7 o’clock tonight in the council chambers at Springfield City Hall.
Western Mass News reached out to Mayor Domenic Sarno’s spokesperson and were told he has no further comment at this time.
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