Mansfield reaffirms commitment to undocumented residents

The Mansfield town council votes to make Mansfield a sanctuary city during their weekly meeting on Tuesday, Feb. 14, 2017. The policy was passed after much support from town members. (Amar Batra/The Daily Campus)

The Town of Mansfield approved a policy that reaffirms and codifies its commitment to undocumented residents at a town council meeting Tuesday evening.

“(The policy) does not designate a sanctuary city but allows and respects undocumented individuals,” council member Denise Keane said.

The policy, prepared by council member Ben Shaiken, states that all Mansfield residents may access the town’s services, such as police, fire and EMS, free of worry that their immigration status will be questioned or preclude them from receiving the services. The policy does not violate any current state and federal law, nor cause Mansfield employees or residents to do so.

In December, the University of Connecticut outlined its policies for undocumented students.

Many Mansfield residents and members of the UConn community voiced their support of the policy.

“Even if this is purely symbolic, it’s a very important symbol,” Stephanie Barefield, an adjunct instructor of first year writing for English language learners at UConn, said.

Sixth-semester secondary math major Eric Cruz Lopez said that the policy is a “good first step.”

“I’m very happy,” Cruz Lopez said. “I feel safer knowing the town stands with undocumented immigrants.”

Several individuals expressed their hesitations regarding the policy as well.

UConn student Josh Weist expressed concerns that the policy could have negative economic impacts on permanent Mansfield residents in light of UConn’s contribution to the town receiving federal funding.

“I’m opposing a sanctuary city, which is not the same as opposing immigration,” Weist said. “I’m not about to spew nativism or isolationism…because that’s not helpful to anybody.”

Shaiken said that the policy should not hinder Mansfield’s ability to receive federal funding.

“What (the policy) doesn’t do is…violate any state or federal law, and by not doing so, what it doesn’t do is put in jeopardy any federal funding Mansfield receives,” Shaiken said.

Council member Mark Sargent said that he did not support the policy’s approval because the policy is redundant.  

“(The policy) essentially states what we already have in policy,” Sargent said. “It doesn’t seem like something we as the town of Mansfield should be doing moving forward.”

The policy assures all Mansfield residents that they have access to town services, council member Antonia Moran said.

“From a very practical perspective, my feeling on this is to make it clear to residents of our community that they do have access to services, regardless of immigration status,” Moran said. “It’s as much to instruct town staff and officials as to make it clear to the public anyone can call the police, the fire department or ask for medical services.”

Mayor Paul Shapiro thanked the greater Mansfield community for their civil debate about the sanctuary city issue over the past few months.

“Thanks to the people in the audience who listened to their fellow citizens, even if they didn’t agree with their fellow citizens,” Shapiro said. “(Council member Ben Shaiken) didn’t frame (the policy) in a way to be confrontational. He framed it in way to reaffirm what we do, and what our values are.”


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