Several Vermont localities vote to pursue ‘sanctuary’ status

Putney sanctuary

Putney resident Maggie Brown Cassidy speaks Tuesday in support of a town meeting resolution “declaring our intention to welcome and protect the rights of immigrants and refugees.” Cassidy said: “It’s not a declaration to become a sanctuary city.” Photo by Kristopher Radder/Brattleboro Reformer

Several Vermont municipalities voted Tuesday to pursue so-called sanctuary status in response to President Donald Trump’s push for further restrictions on immigration.

Calais, Marshfield and Plainfield adopted warned town meeting resolutions on the issue, while Hartland rejected its own by a 163 to 49 margin. East Montpelier unanimously passed an amended article that did not reference “sanctuary” status but offered all immigrants welcome and all residents protections.

Residents in Bennington, Berlin, Montgomery, Morristown, Newfane, Putney, Randolph and Richmond, for their part, approved articles from the floor voicing support for immigrants and refugees. (Gov. Phil Scott, a Berlin resident, was reported to have voted no on the idea of sanctuary status.)

Vermonters who know Trump for making headlines on Twitter pulled out their own iPads and iPhones at town meetings to tweet their own news.

Wrote one: “In Calais, a resident says (regarding Sanctuary Town) ‘we have a president who is loud. get beyond the noise & listen to the heart.’”

And another: “Marshfield VT votes in favor of ‘sanctuary town’ status, did amend its resolution based on guidance from @TJforVermont” (Attorney General TJ Donovan, who has released a booklet on the issue).

And another: “Motion from the floor for Randolph to become a sanctuary town (or ask selectboard to consider). Passed!”

And another: “Richmond Town Meeting-goers OK’d a resolution welcoming all to town without regard to nationality, religion, ethnicity, etc.”

And another: “Town meeting settles on the statement ‘Morristown is a community that respects diversity and welcomes immigrants and refugees.’”

The wording and specific municipal actions that would result from the town meeting articles varied from community to community.

Putney

A multilingual sign on a glass door of Putney Central School greets town meeting attendees. Photo by Kevin O’Connor/VTDigger

Calais simply asked residents if it should become “a town of sanctuary for refugees and asylum-seekers and not participate in federal efforts to deport undocumented immigrants.”

East Montpelier unanimously approved a resolution “asking the town to direct its employees not to inquire into any resident’s immigration status or religious affiliation as part of their official duties and not to dedicate time or resources to enforcing federal immigration policy,” Selectboard member Carl Etnier said.

In addition, several East Montpelier residents spoke in support of the Vermont State Police policy on fair and impartial policing.

“Now that the town has passed this resolution,” Etnier said, “the Selectboard will approach Vermont State Police to discuss its implications for their work in town.”

Plainfield residents also promoted the policy in their 67 to 13 vote for their own advisory article.

“Our town has people of very strong opinions, some who fly Confederate flags and some who embrace a left agenda,” outgoing Selectboard Chairman Bram Towbin said. “It was a little tense, but I thought, all in all, people were very polite and respectful.”

Marshfield and Plainfield offered resolutions based on wording from the Winooski City Council, which has explored sanctuary status alongside counterparts in Burlington, Montpelier and South Burlington.

The Marshfield and Plainfield texts noted, in part, “nearly 60 million people worldwide are displaced by violence, political strife or natural disaster and forced to become refugees,” “millions of additional people worldwide are driven to seek out immigration opportunities for better lives and wellbeing for their families” and “immigration has been the cornerstone of our state and nation’s development.”

“Be it resolved the town formally announces its intention to be a designated sanctuary,” the two towns continued before calling for policies advising town employees to refuse “the application of any request from a state or federal agency that requires the identification of a resident’s immigration status” or “any request to be an extension of any federal immigration policy enforcement actions” and “not enter into any agreement to carry out such enforcement.”

Residents in several other communities were too late to place official requests on their town meeting agendas, so they instead proposed “other business” resolutions.

Montgomery unanimously voted to defend the state’s sovereignty and the Vermont and U.S. Constitutions against all foreign and domestic , according to Barry Kade, who introduced the motion. He said the resolution was worded that way because the town has no law enforcement of its own.

Bennington’s article, urging that “our town shall be a welcoming community for all peoples including undocumented persons, immigrants, and refugees,” passed Monday night by voice vote.

Putney’s item, “declaring our intention to welcome and protect the rights of immigrants and refugees who seek to come to our state and our community,” won unanimous approval Tuesday afternoon before sparking a round of applause.

“It’s not a declaration to become a sanctuary city,” resident Maggie Brown Cassidy said, “but simply an affirmation of our commitment to welcome and protect the rights of immigrants and refugees.”

Clarification: East Montpelier did not pass a warned “sanctuary town” article; instead it passed an amended resolution.

Addition: Montgomery and Newfane was added to the list of towns that passed resolutions.

Kevin O'Connor

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