Mansfield Town Council members consider becoming sanctuary city

Members of the mansfield community including UConn students attended the weekly Town council meeting in the Town Hall to urge the council to pass an ordinance that would make Mansfield a sanctuary city.  (Amar Batra/The Daily Campus)

Mansfield Town Council members did not pass an ordinance to make the Town of Mansfield a sanctuary city, yet gathered additional information about sanctuary cities from several attorneys at the council’s meeting on Monday evening.

Representatives of the Connecticut State Police attended the council’s meeting as well.

There is no consistent legal definition of the phrase “sanctuary city,” according to town attorney Kevin Deneen.

“The term ‘sanctuary city’ is used in a lot of different contexts,” Deneen said. “It typically means a governmental organization, whether it’s a sanctuary city, state or county, that either by policy, ordinance or resolution restricts its employees, either public safety or others, from collecting or otherwise cooperating with the enforcement of federal immigration law.”

Deneen addressed the council’s questions regarding what potential exists for federal funds to be withheld from Mansfield if it becomes a sanctuary city.

“As currently enacted, there are no broad categories of funds that are at risk for our community to adopt a sanctuary city status,” Deneen said. “There are a number of programmatic funding mechanisms that deal with particular programs that are on it that are restricted to—that the funds are available to US citizens or legal resident aliens,” Deneen said, noting FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Agency) funds as an example.

The Town of Mansfield does not operate its own municipal police force, which may abate some of the challenges larger communities which have become sanctuary cities have faced with regard to cooperation between the police and ICE (US Immigration and Customs Enforcement), Deneen said. Unknown factors are present, he added.

“In general, President Trump during his campaign and his inaugural address has indicated a desire to change the law, to withhold federal funding from any community that goes down this road,” Deneen said. “This is hard to analyze, as no law has been proposed yet or reviewed by the courts.”

Legal counsel to the Connecticut State Police division of public safety Antoinette Webster said that it was difficult to answer some of the council’s questions without a proposed ordinance already in place.

“It’s hard to respond to several of your questions because we don’t have the concrete language of an ordinance yet,” Webster said. “What (Connecticut State) troopers do is always enforce the law. If they are processing a person for a traffic stop or arrest and…that person falls in certain restrictions (once under a Civil Immigration Detainer)—they’re convicted of a prior felony, there’s a warrant out—they’ll contact an ICE agent, let them know we have that person, and we have 48 hours in which the ICE agent can come take that person.”

Several council members expressed anxieties about deciding whether or not Mansfield should become a sanctuary city.

“I’m taking issue with this whole process,” council member Virginia Raymond said. “This is a highly complex legal issue, and I know how emotional it is, and it has no place before us at the local level. We have congressmen we elect; it’s their responsibility to deal with this at the federal level.”

“This is far too complicated an issue for us to make a decision on tonight,” council member Antonia Moran added.

The council’s meeting concluded with council member Ben Shaiken discussing research that he conducted regarding various sanctuary cities across the US.

“Windham (Connecticut) adopted a sanctuary city resolution last week,” Shaiken said. “(Windham) town employees are allowed by all statutes to obey federal law.”


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