City of Somerville

Agenda Item
Ordinance Ordained.
Jun 13, 2019 7:00 PM

Submitting for approval the Somerville Welcoming Community Ordinance, to establish Somerville as a Welcoming Community, to declare that all are welcome here, and to increase public confidence in city government with guidelines for our voluntary involvement in federal immigration enforcement.


Department:City CouncilSponsors:Ward Six City Councilor Lance L. Davis, Ward Three City Councilor Ben Ewen-Campen, Ward One City Councilor Matthew McLaughlin, Ward Four City Councilor Jesse Clingan, Ward Two City Councilor Jefferson Thomas ("J.T.") Scott, Ward Seven City Councilor Katjana Ballantyne, City Councilor At Large Wilfred N. Mbah

Official Text

See attachments for original proposed text and final ordained text.

Amendments / Conditions

AMENDED:              Add the following sentence at the end of the "Purpose" paragraph: "This Welcoming Community Ordinance shall replace Section 2.6 of the Somerville Municipal Code ("The Trust Act") in its entirety."

Meeting History

Apr 11, 2019 7:00 PM Video City Council Regular Meeting

Councilor Davis said you hear all the time that Somerville is a City of immigrants and has been for many, many years. But today, it has a different meaning. In 2014, the Board of Alderman passed the Trust Act, but the law has changed since then. Lund vs. the Commonwealth made it clear that retaining somebody at ICE's request was not constitutional. He proposed an updated version, the Somerville Welcoming Community Ordinance.

May 30, 2019 6:00 PM Video Legislative Matters Committee Committee Meeting

Councilor Davis gave some background information on the item. In 1987, the Board of Aldermen declared Somerville to be a sanctuary city, albeit without the power of law. Policies contained in the proposed ordinance have been followed for years and in 2014, the Mayor issued an executive order formalizing those policies and the Board of Aldermen passed the Trust Act, codifying those policies.

Councilor Davis believes that it is appropriate for this proposal to replace the existing Trust Act.

Ben Echevarria, Executive Director of the Welcome Project addressed the Committee and said that the Trust Act is outdated since parts of it have been determined to be unenforceable. Speaking on the proposal before the Committee, he explained that police officers have a choice when citing a person for a motor vehicle violation and may issue a summons, which would not trigger fingerprinting, thereby not alerting ICE to that person’s appearance in court. Mr. Echevarria also explained that the term “sanctuary” has different meanings among the immigrant population.

Solicitor Wright said he has no concerns about repealing the Trust Act, so long as the process is done correctly. Chairman Niedergang asked that the Law Department prepare the paperwork for the City Council to take that action at its next meeting on June 13, 2019. The Solicitor commented that the Law Department was waiting for additional feedback from the Committee or City Council on this matter, however, he pointed out that the proposal seems to relate to directing the police department on how it shall respond to certain circumstances, e.g., arrest vs. summons. He would like to confirm that this is something that can be ordained, but he believes that actions taken are a discretionary function of the Police Department or its Chief, not the Mayor or City Council. He will research this and hopefully have an opinion in time for the next City Council meeting.

Councilor Davis proposed amending the proposed ordinance by adding the following language between the PURPOSE and PREAMBLE sections:


The City of Somerville first declared itself to be a Sanctuary City by Resolution of the Board of Aldermen in 1987. Policies regarding the city’s voluntary involvement in federal immigration enforcement were formally established by Executive Order in May of 2014 and in October of 2014 the Board of Alderman ordained the “Trust Act,” which codified certain aspects of those policies. In 2016 the Board of Aldermen, by Resolution, reaffirmed Somerville as a Sanctuary/Trust Act City. This Welcoming Community Ordinance further codifies existing policy and serves to reinforce the city’s ongoing commitment to the immigrant community and Sanctuary City status.

Members discussed Alex Pirie’s comment about the importance of having the term “Sanctuary City” in the title of this proposed ordinance but felt that adding the Background section was sufficient.

The amendment was approved.

Chairman Niedergang proposed amending the proposed ordinance by replacing the words “place of birth” with the words “previous educational experience” in the last sentence of Section 2 (l).

Councilor Davis explained his reasons for not supporting this amendment. Mr. Echevarria spoke and agreed with Councilor Davis and relayed information he received from School Committee member Andre Green, who supports the proposed ordinance as written and will be introducing a resolution to the School Committee on it.

Chairman Niedergang withdrew the amendment.

Chairman Davis proposed amending the proposed ordinance by inserting the phrase “(if any)” after the words “place of birth” in the last sentence of Section 2 l).

The amendment was approved.

Jun 13, 2019 7:00 PM Video City Council Regular Meeting
AYES:Stephanie Hirsch, Wilfred N. Mbah, Mary Jo Rossetti, William A. White Jr., Matthew McLaughlin, Jefferson Thomas ("J.T.") Scott, Ben Ewen-Campen, Jesse Clingan, Mark Niedergang, Lance L. Davis, Katjana Ballantyne