Dear friends:

In light of President Trump’s recent executive orders, and of the increasing interest within our community in the sanctuary movement, we – the undersigned – would like to share with you the status of our work on the Williamstown Immigrant Trust Act.

The Williamstown Immigrant Trust Act is a draft ordinance for the town of Williamstown. If passed, it will: ensure that the Williamstown Police Department (WPD) will not participate in the enforcement of federal immigration law; strictly limit the circumstances under which the WPD may comply with federal “civil immigration detainers”; prevent the WPD from surrendering sensitive personal information to federal immigration officers without a judicial warrant; bar the WPD from allowing federal immigration officers to question detained individuals solely for the purpose of immigration enforcement; and require the WPD to protect the due process rights of persons subject to federal immigration requests. The act will also limit the collection of immigration information by all town officers, and prohibit the use of town resources to create a registry based upon race, gender, sexual orientation, religion, ethnicity, or national origin.

Many of these policies are already held by various agencies of the town government, including the WPD. The practical effect of this ordinance will be to turn those policies into law, ensuring that federal action against undocumented members of our community is as expensive and difficult as possible. Because many of America’s largest cities – including New York, Los Angeles, and Chicago – already have sanctuary policies in effect, it is very unlikely that the passage of this ordinance will draw federal attention to Williamstown in particular.

This act is based closely upon a legal template developed by Eric Schneiderman, the Attorney General of New York, whose office has provided guidance with regard to the legality of the draft ordinance. In the course of our work on this project, which began in November, we have also been in communication with the National Immigration Project, the Latinx Caucus of the College Democrats of Massachusetts, and the Massachusetts Association of Chiefs of Police, and we are grateful for the support of the Coalition for Immigrant Student Advancement here at Williams.

For the last week, the latest draft of the act has been before Town Manager Jason Hoch and other members of the town government. They have thus far been very receptive to this proposal, and we will be meeting with them to decide on the act’s final wording as soon as possible. It is our hope that the Immigrant Trust Act will be passed as a warrant article at the 2017 Williamstown Town Meeting this May, which is the earliest occasion on which the town as a whole can act upon this issue.

If you have questions or concerns, or if you would like to be involved in the fight to protect all the members of our community, please contact Benjamin Williams at bdw2@williams.edu.

Thank you.

Benjamin Williams ‘17.5
Williams College Democrats

James Mahon
Williamstown Democratic Town Committee
Woodrow Wilson Professor of Political Science

Sherwood Guernsey
Attorney at Law
Four Freedoms Coalition

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