U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement

City seeking student sanctuary

By BRIDGET TURCOTTE

LYNN — The School Committee adopted a policy to protect students from U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).

“It would be bad if we turned our backs on these kids,” said Oscar Ross, who has a daughter in Lynn Public Schools who dreams of being both a police officer and a cook. “If we don’t give them the chance to be what they want to be.”

Mary Sweeney, a retired teacher, said that during her career, students had to worry about getting their homework done.

“I never faced situations of kids being deeply afraid,” said Sweeney. “I think with the issues of immigration and ICE — it’s a reality.”

The panel voted unanimously to adopt a policy that affirms the schools are safe and welcoming sanctuaries for all students, regardless of their immigration status. The document said the resolutions are intended to ensure that all Lynn Public Schools students have the same right to a free, public education and will be treated equally.

“The mission of Lynn Public Schools is to maintain a multicultural school community dedicated to the realization of the full intellectual, physical, social and emotional potential of its students,” reads the resolution. “The city is enriched and strengthened by its diverse cultural heritage, multinational population, and welcoming attitude toward newcomers.”

Committee member John Ford pointed out that while he agreed with where the resolutions were coming from, he believed they were only reaffirming what the district already does. Superintendent Dr. Catherine Latham agreed.

“I believe we have welcoming schools and that our teachers are wonderful and welcoming,” said Latham. “We have not had a case where ICE has come into our schools.”

She added that she believes ICE is restricted from taking immigrants into custody at schools and churches.

“Rather than us saying we already do that, we’ll be able to say that we have a policy for that,” said committee member Donna Coppola. “I think it would be a huge reassurance to our students. Let’s be upfront and be what we are — a proud community — and show others that we care.”

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Latham and committee members expressed concerns about a resolution included in the original draft that prohibited federal immigration law enforcement officers, or personnel assisting them, from entering a school building.

“I worry about training teachers not to allow law enforcement to come into the building,” she said.

Mayor Judith Flanagan Kennedy added that she was “very uncomfortable” with the section of the resolution because it should be recognized that federal law supersedes local law.

“It seems to me that it’s not a valid exercise of a city’s rights in the presence of federal government,” she said.

The panel amended the resolution to state that law enforcement can enter the building, but must remain in the main office until his or her credentials are verified and the superintendent is notified. The vote will be subject to final approval of the language.

Under the policy, the district will not inquire about, record, or request information intended to reveal the immigration status of a student or their family members. They will not disclose private information without parental consent, and staff will refuse to share all voluntary information with immigration agencies to the fullest extent permissible by the law.

All requests for information from a student’s education record will be immediately forwarded to the School Department’s attorney. The motion also noted that the district does not ask for immigration status when families register children for school.

A letter will be sent to parents and staff summarizing the resolutions in simple language. A list of all available resources, including community-based organizations and legal service organizations, will be provided to each student and made available at each school. It will be translated when necessary. Teachers will be trained on the policy before the start of the school year, when they become familiarized with all other policies.

In the next 90 days, Latham will be expected to develop a plan for training teachers, administrators and other staff on the new policy and best practices for ensuring the wellbeing of students, who may be affected by immigration enforcement actions. The plan will be implemented within five months.Legis

A copy of the resolution will be submitted to the Massachusetts Attorney General and to Lynn’s federal, state, and local legislative representatives.


Bridget Turcotte can be reached at bturcotte@itemlive.com. Follow her on Twitter @BridgetTurcotte.

 

Committee ponders meaning of ‘sanctuary’

By LEAH DEARBORN

LYNN — The School Committee continued a discussion regarding the concerns of immigrant students on Thursday.

Member Maria Carrasco initiated the conversation at the previous committee meeting, saying she has been approached by a number of students who are worried about U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) entering the schools.

In response, attorney and committee member Jared Nicholson drafted a resolution meant to clarify the law and reassure students.

Nicholson read aloud from the resolution, which stated the Lynn Public Schools’ commitment to providing a safe learning environment.

The resolution reiterated that city schools do not request immigration status information from students.

School attorney John C. Mihos said the resolution doesn’t constitute a policy change, just a restatement of the laws as they already exist.

Carrasco and committee member Donna Coppola both spoke in support of the concept of becoming a “sanctuary school district,” a distinction that Mihos said would only alter the title of the resolution and not its purpose.

“The word ‘sanctuary’ means protection for somebody who feels chased,” said Carrasco, who argued that the word alone does have some impact.

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Member Patricia Capano said there have been no incidents regarding students and immigration enforcement in city schools. She said the resolution is an attempt on the committee’s part to be proactive.

Superintendent Dr. Catherine Latham said she spoke with Essex District Attorney Jonathan Blodgett regarding the subject and was told there have been no deportations in the county.

Carrasco disputed that claim, but said she could not ethically provide the identities of the individuals impacted.

A vote to adopt the resolution was tabled in order to bring the topic to a full committee for further discussion.

Leah Dearborn can be reached at ldearborn@itemlive.com.

Trump cuts could bleed North Shore nonprofits

Photo by Leise Jones
James Wilson, assistant director of conservation, examines a furnace for needed repairs or replacement. The program could be axed if President Trump’s budget is approved.

By THOMAS GRILLO

LYNN — President Donald Trump’s proposal to scrap more than $50 billion in federal funding for social programs would have a catastrophic impact on residents, according to nonprofit executives and City Hall.

“These cuts will be devastating,” said Birgitta Damon, CEO of Lynn Economic Opportunity Inc. (LEO), a North Shore community action agency that provides fuel assistance, home energy measures and daycare. “If these cuts come, it would jeopardize the safety of thousands of Greater Lynn residents.”

In what Trump calls his “Budget Blueprint for 2018,” the president proposed increases in the federal budget for immigration enforcement at the Departments of Justice and Homeland Security, additional resources for a wall on the Mexican border, immigration judges, expanded detention capacity and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.
The president also pledged to boost defense spending by 10 percent to $571 billion, a $54 billion hike, without increasing the debt.

But to do that, Trump has recommended reductions in non-defense spending totaling $54 billion.  

“We are going to do more with less and make the government lean and accountable to the people,” Trump said in his budget plan. “This includes deep cuts to foreign aid. It is time to prioritize the security and well-being of Americans and to ask the rest of the world to step up and pay its fair share.”

Charles Gaeta, executive director of the Lynn Housing Authority & Neighborhood Development, whose mission is to provide low- and moderate-income tenants with safe and affordable housing, said the proposed cuts will have a significant impact on the nonprofit’s $40 million budget.

“If Congress goes along, these cuts will be disastrous to our residents, clients and staff,” he said. “We don’t know exactly how much will be cut, but rental assistance is threatened, so are  community development block grants and HOME funds which can be used to rehab housing. For an urban community like Lynn, this is devastating. It will hurt neighborhood revitalization, as well as first-time homebuyer and lead paint programs.”

U.S. Rep. Seth Moulton (D-Mass.) said candidate Trump promised to create good-paying jobs, invest in the nation’s infrastructure and ensure that all Americans have the opportunity to thrive in the new economy. But the president’s budget fails to mention jobs, rebuilding roads and bridges or expanding economic opportunity for all Americans.

“For a president who talks about ‘America First,’ this budget puts Americans last,” Moulton said in a statement.

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A spokesman for the state’s Department of Housing and Community Development, an agency of Republican Gov. Charlie Baker, said they were still trying to determine how the proposed cuts would impact the state.

“The commonwealth relies on various federal funding sources to support important programs … and the Baker-Polito administration will continue to advocate for federal funding,” the agency said in a statement. “As the budget process plays out in Congress, the administration urges the Massachusetts congressional delegation to work toward keeping these critical funding sources intact.”

Donald Walker, director of project operations for the city’s Department of Community Development, said Lynn would take a $2.2 million hit if the White House eliminates the block grant program.

“We use that program to rehabilitate parks and playgrounds, housing rehabilitation, fund first-time homebuyer and small business loans,” he said. “We also provide $366,000 to 30 public service agencies that provide Meals On Wheels, a community minority cultural center, special needs and arts programs. We are concerned about the impact the cuts would have and hope there will be some give and take before this is over.”

If approved by Congress, $7 million of LEO’s $10.3 million annual budget would be lost. Low-income heating assistance and home energy/weatherization programs would end and Head Start, a program that prepares young children for success in school, would also cease.

“Trump has decided to increase defense spending and, as a result, he must cut domestic programs that families and communities rely on,” said Damon.

Material from Associated Press contributed to this report.

Thomas Grillo can be reached at tgrillo@itemlive.com.

ICE rumors send chill through North Shore

PHOTO BY THE ASSOCIATED PRESS
President Donald Trump speaks during a meeting in the Roosevelt Room of the White House.

By THOMAS GRILLO

LYNN President Donald Trump’s high stakes effort to target millions of undocumented immigrants has frayed the nerves of many North Shore residents.

“There’s tremendous fear, uncertainty and confusion over what is happening with the administration’s crackdown and it’s not just people from Muslim countries,” said Denzil Mohammed, a director at the Immigrant Learning Center, a Malden nonprofit that educates the public on the contributions of immigrants.

During the campaign, Trump promised to end immigration as we know it. This week, the president equipped the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), a division of the Department of Homeland Security, with the tools to potentially remove millions of undocumented residents from the country. The administration said serious criminals will be a top priority, but some are not so sure.

“People are worried and many of us are trying to figure out how to protect our families,” said Jose Palma, a Lynn resident who immigrated to the U.S. from El Salvador nearly 20 years ago and works as an organizer at Neighbor To Neighbor, a local advocacy group. “Everyone is talking about what we should do if immigration enforcement officers show up at our homes and what kind of documents we must have to keep us safe.”

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Juan Gonzalez, a Guatemalan native and founder of the American Latino Committee, said rumors are rampant about raids that may have been held in Lynn.

“The chief of police has assured me that this is not true, but people are still on edge,” he said.

Through a spokesman, Deputy Chief  Michael Mageary said no ICE raids have been made in the city.

Typically, ICE agents notify the Lynn Police Department before coming to the city and inform them about any actions they intend to take, according to Lt. Rick Donnelly.  

If an arrest is to be made, a Lynn police officer would accompany the ICE agent and the suspect would be taken to the police station for documentation before being sent to a federal facility, he said.

“We will assist ICE if they have a warrant, but we are not immigration officers and we don’t knock on doors asking residents if they are here legally,” Donnelly said.

An ICE spokesman confirmed the agency is not conducting any operations in Massachusetts.

Still, as part of its work, ICE officers target and arrest criminal aliens and other individuals who are in violation of the country’s immigration laws, the spokesman said.

Gov. Charlie Baker said Massachusetts is part of a global community and he has no plans to change enforcement measures when it comes to immigrants.

“We benefit enormously from the presence, the intelligence and vitality of foreign-born people in the commonwealth and we are going to work hard to remain a welcoming place for everyone,” Baker told The Item. “We have no intention of changing any of our policies.”

Mohammed said there’s confusion among newcomers over Trump’s aggressive immigration policies.

“Everything is happening so fast,” he said. “Many immigrants are questioning their futures in this country. Think of how damaging it would be for local economies of big cities where immigrants have moved in and are helping to sustain and rebuild them.”

A report by the Partnership for a New American Economy, a coalition of mayors and business leaders who support immigration reforms, found that Massachusetts immigrants play a key role in the state as taxpayers and consumers.

In 2014, immigrant-led households in the Bay State earned $36.8 billion, 15 percent of all income earned by Massachusetts residents that year, the survey said. With those earnings, the state’s foreign-born households contributed more than one in every seven dollars paid by residents in state and local tax revenues, payments that support schools, police and fire protection, the study found.

Through their individual wage contributions, immigrants also paid about $4.6 billion into the Social Security and Medicare programs that year, researchers found. By spending the money they earn at businesses such as hair salons, grocery stores and coffee shops, the study said immigrants also support small business owners and job creation in the communities where they live.

The White House press office did not respond to a request for comment.


Thomas Grillo can be reached at tgrillo@itemlive.com.

Police arrest pair for heroin trafficking

BY GAYLA CAWLEY

LYNN — Two men were arrested Wednesday afternoon on charges of heroin trafficking, following a joint investigation by Lynn and state police, Lynn Police Lt. Glenn Dunnigan said.

James Giacalone, 47, of 20 Beacon Hill Ave., was arrested and charged with heroin trafficking over 28 grams and possession to distribute a Class B drug (cocaine) at 12:05 p.m. Wednesday.

Juan Soto, 38, of 186 East Main St., Bridgeport, Conn., was arrested and charged with heroin trafficking over 28 grams and disguise to obstruct justice at 12:33 p.m. Wednesday.

State police information indicated that there were possible drugs being sold out of the second floor of 20 Beacon Hill Ave., Apt. 2. Information indicated that Giacalone had been dealing heroin out of the apartment and was receiving deliveries of the drug in the morning by an Hispanic male. Following surveillance, where police witnessed what they believed to be a drug transaction, the male was identified as Soto, Dunnigan said.

After obtaining a search warrant, police recovered a large amount of heroin and cocaine, cash, several packaging materials, phones and scales, Dunnigan said.

Soto, a three-time deported felon, gave a false name to police, and was later identified by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). Giacalone also had prior warrants out for his arrest, according to Dunnigan.

The investigation was conducted by the newly established Lynn Police Warrant Squad in conjunction with the State Police Violent Fugitive Apprehension Unit.


Gayla Cawley can be reached at gcawley@itemlive.com. Follow her on Twitter @GaylaCawley.