I would like to take this opportunity to pass along my thoughts regarding the possibility of making Watertown a sanctuary city. As a lifelong resident of Watertown, I find this suggestion very troubling, totally illegal, and totally unnecessary. I am proud to be a second generation of Italian immigrants who came to make a better life in Watertown. My grandfather came to America in 1909, and the first thing he did was apply for my grandmother to come to this country legally. She was able to join him in 1913, legally, and they began living their dream. At that time, Watertown actually helped immigrants, not by giving them things or money, or living assistance, but by offering English classes at night at the high school and, as my grandparents always said “grazie a Dio” (thank god) for the Hood Rubber that provided employment.
There was no such thing as English as a second language, nor did the immigrants want that. They wanted to be part of a community where they could work and raise a family. And they did. I never heard them say that they, or anyone they knew, were harassed by police or anyone else in this town. Fast forward to today – I don’t know of anyone who has been harassed by the Watertown Police due to their ethnicity, religion, or immigration status. Now, the Watertown council is being asked by some residents and proponents of this foolishness to consider making Watertown a sanctuary city.
Why in the world we want to label Watertown a sanctuary city when there is no evidence, nor has there ever been, that immigrants living or visiting this town have been harassed based on their immigration status? This is a town built by immigrants and we continue to welcome them today. To even suggest something like this is such a slap in the face to our police department, which conducts itself in an exemplary manner and is not in a habit of harassing people on the streets of Watertown. To even suggest that a local municipal governing body has the right to tell the police not to enforce the law is laughable. Town councilors are not Federal lawmakers and have no right to pretend that they have the power to ignore the law. It is very troubling to me to see proponents of this holding signs that say
“Watertown Welcomes Immigrants.” What town do these people live in? Obviously, not the town that I live in – the town that has been welcoming immigrants since the end of the 19th and beginning of the 20th century, and continues to do so without incident.
It is apparent to me that this is not about welcoming people and making them feel safe in Watertown, but rather using them as part of a political agenda that certain councilors feel they have a right to participate in because it is what they personally believe, not reflective of what is actually happening here in Watertown.
Watertown has always been the crown jewel of surrounding communities, and so many opportunities to make sensible plans for its future have presented themselves over the past 20 years. Instead of standing up and not just going along with what was in vogue at the moment, Watertown fell prey to uncontrolled development that moved so quickly that no one thought about the long term consequences that residents live with every day. And now, yet another issue that could put the town at risk of losing federal funding and putting us one step closer to totally losing our identity as we become more and more just an extension of Brighton. Our jewel does not shine as brightly as before, but rather has been tarnished and turned into a major city with all of the problems of a major city. Instead of promoting sanctuary city status, our council and proponents of this measure should rather be shouting from the rooftops that Watertown has always been and continues to be a welcoming community and it goes WITHOUT saying. Watertown should be celebrating this fact. There is no need to hold a sign and there is certainly no need to play “follow the leader” on this, as we have so many times before. Our actions speak louder than words. Watertown should be the leader, not a follower, on this issue. And I say to any town councilor who has made comments that Watertown must support its neighboring towns who voted in favor this, YOU ARE WRONG, it is not your job to get involved in decisions that other communities make for its residents. You represent Watertown and you should put local issues above all else. You represent Watertown residents, not Cambridge, or Somerville, or Newton. I have every confidence in the Watertown Police that they will do their job and continue to treat immigrants with the same respect as they always have, and to also protect the residents by enforcing the law as it is written. I am displeased that many of the councilors who support this do not have the same confidence in our police. If they did, they would not even suggest that Watertown become a sanctuary city.
The Watertown Council is in the midst of making several decisions on controversial topics that will change this town forever. I hope that every consideration is given to thoroughly reviewing the potential long-term consequences of its actions so that we do not end up with “buyer remorse” by making wrong decisions.