Amended South Portland resolve avoids sanctuary city status

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SOUTH PORTLAND — The City Council on May 15 amended a resolution condemning hate and violence.

The revised resolve prohibits cooperation with surveillance programs that target minority residents or show bias in police profiling.

But officials said the changes will not designate South Portland as a sanctuary city, which could have put some federal funding in danger.

The new amendments define unbiased community policing practices, and prohibit the use of city resources to assist or cooperate with surveillance programs based solely on race, gender, sexual orientation, religion, ethnicity, or national origin.

Also at Monday’s meeting, councilors approved spending just over $1 million in the School Department capital improvement plan.

The amendments to the Feb. 6 resolution against violence and hate speech that expressed the council’s solidarity with Muslims and anyone targeted for their ethnicity, race or religion, were first discussed in an April 24 workshop.

Many residents and some councilors at that time were concerned the new language could label South Portland a sanctuary city, which could put $9.1 million in federal funding at risk.

There was much less concern about sanctuary city designation on Monday. The amendments passed 5-2, with Councilors Linda Cohen and Maxine Beecher opposed. Both supported the original resolution.

“Just to confirm, this does not put us on the sanctuary list,” City Manager Scott Morelli said 

According to the Center for Immigration Studies, sanctuary jurisdictions “have laws, ordinances, regulations, resolutions, policies, or other practices that obstruct immigration enforcement and shield criminals from (U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement) – either by refusing to or prohibiting agencies from complying with ICE detainees, imposing unreasonable conditions on detainer acceptance, denying ICE access to interview incarcerated aliens, or otherwise impeding communication or information exchanges between their personnel and federal immigration officers.”

The amendments, and resolution, were sponsored by Councilor Eben Rose, but were modified to avoid the sanctuary city designation. Morelli said the revised language was acceptable to the city’s legal counsel, Police Chief Edward Googins, and Rose.

Resident Mary Jane Ferrier spoke in favor of the amendments at the meeting.

“I think from time to time we should publicly declare what is true to us,” Ferrier said.

The amended resolution now includes:

• A commitment to promote strategies for the ongoing inclusion and long-term economic and social integration of newcomers in the city.

• Continued non-biased policing and profiling policies and practices.

• Continued collaboration with federal, state and other local authorities to protect the public safety.

• Not seeking delegated authority for federal immigration law enforcement.

• Not using city resources to assist or cooperate with any surveillance program based solely on race, gender, sexual orientation, religion, ethnicity, or national origin.

• And not using city resources to create a federal registry based solely on race, gender, sexual orientation, religion, ethnicity, or national origin.

Councilor Brad Fox, who voted in favor, said the changes do not put the city at any risk.

“People in my neighborhood live in fear of what the president of the United States might do at any point,” said Fox, who lives on the west side of the city, home to a large immigrant population. “I think passing this is the least we can do for the minorities in this community.”

Councilor Maxine Beecher, who voted for the original resolution but against the amendment, said she liked the original resolve because it said all that was needed to say.

“I think adding these extra fluff pieces puts us in danger of legal problems,” Beecher said.

“I think it is tragic that we need to say these things,” Councilor Susan Henderson said. “It is a sadness in our nation that we need to say this. … I am happy to support it, but sad that we have it.”

School CIP

The council also unanimously authorized Superintendent of Schools Ken Kunin to implement the fiscal 2018 proposed Reserve and Capital Improvement Plan.

The plan includes new allocations of $235,000 for possible middle school consolidation, $293,000 for technology upgrades and $170,000 for a school bus and vans. 

Another nearly $255,000 of the improvement plan includes items budgeted in previous years, such as security cameras, Dyer playground drainage, and other projects.

Melanie Sochan can be reached at 781-3661 ext.106 or msochan@theforecaster.net. Follow her on Twitter @melaniesochan.

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