Cambridge's sanctuary city status

Last night at the Central Square Library on Pearl Street, the Cambridge Police Department discussed Cambridge's sanctuary city status at a meeting organized by Cambridge peace commissioner Brian Corr. 

Joined by Nancy Slachter, deputy superintendent Christine Elow and superintendent Joe Wilson of Cambridge police, Corr noted that Cambridge became a sanctuary city in 1985, largely in response to the influx of migrants fleeing the conflict in El Salvador. 


Cambridge Police deputy superintendent Christine Elow speaks about sanctuary cities


Defining sanctuary status as the refusal of local officials including the police department, to the extent legally possible, to aid the federal government in the administration of border control which is a federal responsibility, Corr remarked that Cambridge's status was controversial even at its onset.

In the intervening three decades, the city nevertheless has expanded the definition of those protected under sanctuary status first by including more countries of origin, and then more generically people seeking refuge.  

Deputy Elow underscored the main mission of the police department is to keep people safe. The recent efforts by the Trump administration to round up undocumented persons undermines the most valuable tool any department has: good two-way communication between the community and officers. "We need people to trust the police department," Elow said, adding "we can't arrest our way out of situations." She noted that this is not just about immigration. Over the past decade, Cambridge police have made great efforts to rethink old paradigms, which applies not just to refugees seeking safe haven, but also to Cambridge's youth and people grappling with substance abuse or homelessness. This holistic approach improves the chances that the police will succeed in reducing crime and keeping people from getting trapped in the criminal justice system.

For more information, contact Brian Corr at the Cambridge Peace Commission.

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