Mansfield Town Council further discusses possibility of becoming sanctuary city

Member of the Mansfield community raise their hands to show their support for an ordinance by Mansfield to make the community a sanctuary city on Nov. 28, 2016 at Town Hall. Debate continued at a meeting on Monday, Dec. 11, 2016 but no definite decision was reached. (Amar Batra/The Daily Campus)

Mansfield Town Council members made no definitive decision, but moved forward in their consideration of the Town of Mansfield becoming a sanctuary city at their meeting Monday night.

“I don’t plan on tonight being the night we take final action, or indeed any action,” Mayor Paul Shapiro said on Monday. “If any council members want additional information, let us know. The town attorney and staff will do their best to answer the questions of council members.”

Council members requested that further facts be made available to them for review during their first meeting in January regarding the potential impacts to Mansfield if it becomes a sanctuary city.

“One of the areas that I think we need to understand is the impact our actions might have on federal funding,” council member Virginia Raymond said. “In my own reading, the state of Connecticut is already on a list to lose federal funding for three different law enforcement grants they usually receive from the federal government, so I think we need to look at the harm we might be doing to our community.”

Council member Ben Shaiken inquired about the legality of instituting sanctuary city actions, in addition to the Connecticut State Police Department’s day-to-day immigration law enforcement policies.

“That’s part of our information gathering. That’s why I suggest bringing in a state police representative next time,” Shapiro replied.

After reviewing this information in January, the council will decide whether to form an ad hoc committee for the express purpose of discussing whether Mansfield should become a sanctuary city, or to continue deliberating on the topic as an entire council during regular council meetings, according to Shapiro.

“If we don’t establish an ad hoc committee, this will be a recurring item of old business until it is disposed of one way or another,” Shapiro said.

Town manager Matthew Hart presented research on the subject of sanctuary cities at the meeting.

“There is no clear legal definition of sanctuary city I found or am aware of. It’s a term most commonly used for municipalities whose funds cannot be used in furtherance of federal immigration laws. These towns don’t allow police to inquire about individual’s immigration status, for example,” Hart said. “I still need to complete this work, but the inquiry is only relevant in a few areas: eligibility to vote and voter registration. Voter registration cards state the person must be a US citizen, but accept that person’s signature as proof. The town (of Mansfield), under federal law, is required to have all new hires complete a federal form, an I-9 form, which legally verifies they’re qualified to work in the US. The town (of Mansfield) doesn’t have a stand-alone police department; we contract with the state. And the language is evolving from ‘sanctuary city’ to ‘welcoming city.’”

Several council members will define the components of a sanctuary city over the coming weeks so that the council and greater Mansfield community will have a single definition of sanctuary city from which to work in the future, Shapiro said.

“This is going to be work, and I don’t disagree at all with the sentiment about the nature of the task in front of us,” Shapiro said. “I believe this is something that involves everyone in this town, whether part of the UConn or greater community, and everyone should be engaged in this.”


Alexandra Retter is staff writer for The Daily Campus. She can be reached via email at alexandra.retter@uconn.edu.