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Harrisville, Dublin, Lyme vote to be 'sanctuaries' for illegal immigrants

Sunday News Correspondent

March 18. 2017 10:00PM

Three small New Hampshire towns voted to adopt "sanctuary town" status at town meetings by passing warrant articles aimed at protecting the civil rights of illegal immigrants.

Harrisville voters hotly debated the sanctuary town warrant article that was eventually approved by 60 percent of the 122 Harrisville voters Thursday evening in a secret ballot. The policy directs police not to inquire into the immigration status of anyone stopped or arrested for minor infractions.

The article has an exception for those accused of felonies or violent criminal activity.

It was a divisive debate, said resident Jeannie Eastman on Friday, but civil.

"I supported it because Harrisville is a mill town with a long history of immigrant laborers," Eastman said. "They came to work in the mills. They labored to build the road system in town. Some of them started businesses here and we drew a distinction, we drew a contract between minor infractions like traffic stops and serious legal offenses such as New Hampshire felony laws and criminal activity."

Dublin Town Meeting voters also took up the issue on Saturday, adopting an article that was amended to mirror the police department's standing practice of not profiling. The article extends the policy to all town employees.

In a letter from Dublin Police Chief Timothy Suokko distributed Saturday, he explained that for the past 10 years his department follows the ACLU's "Fair and Impartial Policing Rule."

Heather Stockwell said she and other residents who support the petition article amended the original in response to concerns from residents.

Many residents still took issue with the article, however, saying it was asking town employees to commit an act of civil disobedience.

Tom Carney said whether federal, state or local, the town should not "cherry pick," which laws it chooses to follow and those its chooses not to follow.

One woman asked why town employees shouldn't ask for citizen status when a resident comes to the town seeking town assistance.

"I don't have a lot of money for extra taxes, do you?" the voter said.

Marion Carney expressed exasperation with the article when Moderator Tim Clarke told her if the article was adopted it essentially had no power to be enforced.

"So employees of the town of Dublin don't have to pay attention to this if they don't want to. I think that is very important or we shouldn't be voting on this at all," Carney said.

Dublin voters called the vote, and overwhelming adopted the article by a show of hands.

The warrant article, steered clear of the term "sanctuary city," which typically means a municipality that protects illegal immigrants by not reporting them for violating federal immigration laws.

Many cities and towns across the country have resisted the "sanctuary" label but have local ordinances or operating practices that are the equivalent, namely that local law enforcement does not assist in the enforcement of federal immigration laws. That's why, for example, leaders in Portland, Maine, and Providence, R.I., resisted this tag long before President Donald Trump was elected. Immigrant advocates have long identified both as sanctuary cities.

Lyme voters passed a resolution on civil rights at Town Meeting on Tuesday that reaffirmed several constitutional rights, which the resolution said also apply to anyone, citizen or not, living within the United States.

The resolution specifically calls out President Trump for threatening civil liberties on various fronts from religion to immigration status and encourages town employee not to cooperate with any federal deportation force.

"It doesn't have anything that isn't already enshrined in the Constitution. It's more an affirmation of those rights," said James Graham of Lyme, who authored the petition article. Graham said sanctuary status was not the intent of the warrant article.

"It basically says that town officials shouldn't cooperate if the civil rights of somebody are being threatened," Graham said. "If a federal agent is asking somebody to do something that is threatening the civil rights of someone, we encourage them not to cooperate."

The resolution also requires that Town Clerk Patricia Jenks notify all authorities, from the local sheriff to state officials to the Trump administration, on the resolution.

Jenks said Friday the resolution is much ado about nothing and was added by petition to the warrant by residents upset at Trump.

Said Graham: "I was alarmed at the language that the President was using during the campaign. I thought it was in direct contradiction to what is stated in the Bill of Rights. So when he was elected, I thought it was important to, wherever possible, stand up and call him out on that language."

The resolution has no effect on the way the town employees conduct business, other than Jenks is now being required to send letters of notification to the list of officials.

Harrisville has less than 1,000 residents, Dublin less than 1,600 and Lyme less than 1,700.

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