Community discusses 'sanctuary city' designation

by Amanda Zhou | 2/24/17 2:20am

On Feb. 22, students and members of the Hanover community gathered on the Green for a candlelight demonstration regarding the recent executive order restricting immigration and actions against undocumented people by President Donald Trump’s administration. Following the demonstration, Hanover town manager Julia Griffin, Hanover Police Chief Charlie Dennis and the Upper Valley Coalition for Immigrants and Refugees led a community meeting in St. Thomas Parish Hall on the prospect of making Hanover a “sanctuary city.”

Co-founder of the Upper Valley Coalition for Immigrants and Refugees Kasia Kready ’17 gave introductions and shared her motivations for the meeting. She said the idea came out of a brainstorming session on how to help students who are worried they may be affected by actions of the Trump administration.

Griffin said that while she had been approached by many members of the community asking about the possibility of Hanover becoming a sanctuary city, which would make the town more open to refugees and immigrants such as by not using municipal funds to enforce national immigration laws, and that she understood its ethical importance, she was still concerned about taking formal action. During the meeting, she said she was worried that taking formal action to become a sanctuary city may “[put] a target on back of community and the students who could be subjected to discrimination under Trump’s approach to refugees and immigration.”

The Hanover police department can only enforce criminal law and does not inquire about immigration status, she said during the meeting. County sheriff departments, on the other hand, do deal with civil law and immigration.

Griffin said she recently read a document that outlines the difference between what cities and counties are each permitted to do in relation to immigration law.

“Bottom line, we don’t have a role as a local community,” she said during the meeting.

Griffin said during the meeting that even if federal law changed so that local communities have a role in immigration law, Hanover does not have the resources to become involved. She emphasized that Hanover has a small police department and is “down one position” and has been down up to six positions over the last two years.

Should Trump follow through in denying funding to sanctuary cities, Griffin said during the meeting that the town would be largely unaffected since it already receives very limited federal funding, which is only used for emergency equipment.

However, she said that the College may have a “real risk” as a research institution attempting to obtain federal money even though such an action would likely be overturned.

Griffin said that Hanover is essentially already a sanctuary community. If a student is arrested for underage alcohol consumption, it is a violation level offense, meaning it will not affect that individual’s immigration status.

She said that she alerted the county government that there was a concerned group regarding recent events to let them know they should be prepared to have a conversation about their role concerning immigration.

“Clearly, the role of county sheriff’s departments is more pivotal, by all means, than the role of local government when it comes to immigration enforcement or support,” she said.

In response to a question on whether sanctuary counties exist, Griffin said that there are counties in the country which adopt sanctuary policies by not becoming an extension of U.S. Immigrations and Customs Enforcement, but there are also counties which do act as an extension of ICE.

She explained that Hanover lies in a liberal pocket of Grafton County, and that she had reached out to county attorney Lara Saffo to let Saffo know that members of the Hanover community were concerned about the county’s approach towards immigration. She said that this outreach was only intended to be the start of a conversation.

Griffin also clarified that since the College is on private property, should ICE want to arrest someone, they would need a warrant.

She took a few more questions before ceding the stage to Dennis, who reemphasized Hanover Police’s small size and uninvolvement with federal civil law. He also clarified that Hanover only has a holding facility, rather than an actual jail. If an individual is taken into police custody, Hanover Police will not inquire about the individual’s immigration status, though his or her fingerprints will go to the state and the FBI database.

After the event, Dennis said that he did not see the College administration’s stance against the executive order as something that would change its relationship with Hanover Police.

Member of Dartmouth Coalition for Immigration Reform, Equality and DREAMers Rosa Mendoza ’20 said she thought the community meeting was organized and she liked the question and answer portions. However, she said she was disappointed no formal action was taken to become a sanctuary city, although she understood the reasoning behind the decision.

Sunpreet Singh contributed reporting