LETTER: Why Watertown Should Not be a Sanctuary City

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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.


Gale Boyd
Arlington Street

35 thoughts on “LETTER: Why Watertown Should Not be a Sanctuary City

  1. Great letter Gale!
    I agree with all you said regarding our treatments of immigrants through the years, about maintaing our own identity, about our police department’s history of fair treatment of immigrants.
    Chief Lawn has outlined how the
    Department to will continue to handle this issue in a fair and just method .
    That is good enough for me!

    • it seems the author is actually defending the police…like the police cannot do its job of securing their own safety … since when the statement “is such a slap in the face to our police department” is to be lauded? the term sanctuary city seems to be such a flexible one that “the slap in the face” comparison, with all the respect for ones opinion/free speech right, is really too much! Besides the history of the police department is presented in negative terms (“is not in a habit”, “I never heard”, etc.) instead of palpable constructive examples.

    • John, the issue is not as simple as the letter writer and many of you who have commented seem to believe. For decades, US Immigration rules have needed effective updating, but neither party has been able to accomplish that. The result is that we have set up incentives for illegals to come here. Fully five percent of our labor force is composed of illegals, mostly doing jobs that native Americans will not do. Don’t tell me that unemployed steel workers will be happy picking lettuce or that coal miners will appreciate the opportunity to clean toilets.

      So we have a problem that we need to solve, but we are placing all the blame, and the potential punishment on the immigrants, not the politicians who have screwed up, nor the businesses who have incentivized illegals to come here by hiring them. In the farm sector, illegal workers may reach 50-75% in certain products like dairy.

      The answer is not mass deportation, or building a wall. The answer is sane comprehensive immigration reform that acknowledges the fact that certain areas of our economy need workers. Punishing those who have come here to work putting the food on our tables is just plain mean. Nor should we punish the businesses who have hired them unless their practices are exploitative. We should solve the root problem instead.

      The current administration has whipped up anger toward illegal immigrants in order to justify various misdeeds and power grabs. Don’t fall for this, Watertown!

      What upsets me the most in this debate is some of the references to “these people” and so on in referring to those who tend to favor the sanctuary city idea. Well “these people”, including me, are your neighbors and this is the same sort of cheap divisive rhetoric that polarized our town during CPA debate. When I read that sort of epithet, I tend to dismiss everything else the speaker or writer says. Many of “these people” are great humans and good neighbors, so knock it off with that crap please.

      In Watertown we know that people who came here speaking another language are not necessarily the enemy. We know that different cultures are a source of strength, not weakness. I chose this community for its ethnic diversity. Let’s not fall for simplistic rhetoric, but rather look at this immigration issue in its complexity and seek real, not imaginary solutions.

  2. I 100% agree!!!!! Thank you for taking the time to point this out.
    People need to understand that there is a protocol for everything, my parents went through the process and so should anyone else coming to this country.

  3. “The Winter of Our Discontent” by John Ernst Steinbeck, Jr. (the winner of the 1962 Nobel Prize in Literature) Wikipedia description: “On discovering that the current store owner, Italian immigrant Alfio Marullo, may be an illegal immigrant, Ethan makes an anonymous tip to the Immigration and Naturalization Service. After Marullo is taken into custody, he transfers ownership of the store to Ethan through the actions of the very government agent that caught him. Marullo gives Ethan the store because he believes Ethan is honest and deserving. “

    • And???? You’re point is to close our eyes to illegals. BTW, John Steinbeck Jr. was born in the United States. A natural born citizen.

      • so it resulted my initial reply did not got digested…but because I do not want anyone to understand I agree with your comment I must reply. And maybe this time I get to say that your manner of looking down to someone and demanding answers is not pleasing to me and I do not know or want to know to whom else. from your words I see you raising yourself above other people just because you are part of a status you consider superior. also your allusion of the “natural born citizens versus others” is very distressful. this kind of persecution only based on citizenship must never ever exist! but nevertheless, in a free world it is your choice what you do with your eyes; just let mine in peace: don’t speak or do not even insinuate about mine. to be clear, I would have given my straightforward opinion if I had wanted. do not force a statement! and stay away from me as I stay away from you!

  4. The issue is not Watertown, which is a gem of a town. The issue is the atmosphere in the country which has become unfriendly to immigrants . My understanding from listening to and reading local police officials is that they don’t want immigrants to feel afraid of them thinking that they are an arm of the immigration authorities. Clearly they will honor any warrant issued by a judge. But ICE now has “police” printed on their jackets – they certainly are not police in Watertown.
    Shep Ferguson

  5. Very well written letter Gale! You nailed it when you said that “Watertown is at risk of losing it’s identity”. It appears that some of our counselors forget that we are NOT Cambridge, and don’t want to be. As a life-long Watertown Resident I’d like to see our Town Counsel focus on more substantive issues, like building new schools.

    I also strongly support Chief Lawn and the Watertown Police Dept. Their position on this issue has been clearly and fairly explained. Any counselor who suggests that our Police Department needs to be instructed by the Town Counsel how to do their job is WRONG.
    My bet is that these same Town Counselors who support becoming a Sanctuary City also count votes.

    Pleaae join me in voting those counselors out of office at our next election. Perhaps they can then run for election in Cambridge!

    Len Holt
    Grenville Road

    • It’s time for Watertown to seriously consider changing our form of gov’t because for whatever reason, the town council/town manager solution isn’t working as well as we need it to. Watertown needs a chief executive who is directly accountable to residents via the ballot box not our current form where the town manager answers to the town council.

      Town councilors are paid $5,000 a year for their service & Council President is paid $7,500 annually (to also sit on the school board) – this is a pittance given how much time the positions require. President Mark Sideris & most councilors devote an enormous amount of time to their constituency just attending evening meetings & it’s unfair to judge them harshly for not doing more when we, as a town, refuse to compensate them adequately. I would not accept the responsibility of either position given these terms & I believe that is a large part of why they face so few challengers at election time.

      I believe that the town councilors & president do the best that they can but Watertown is a growing city & we need gov’t that can properly manage our size & growth which, to me, means that we need a full-time mayor & a better compensated city council (possibly full-time).

      At a critical time in our growth (some would say long overdue) we need more focused attention & hands on effort by our elected officials because we can complain about various issues: roads & lack of curbs, schools, development, traffic etc but until we have that more focused effort from our elected officials we will continue to flounder & those looking to get the better of Watertown will continue to succeed.

      The process can be started by a petition

      • Today WickedLocal reported Town Manager Driscoll earned $171k while President Sideris earned $6,500 in 2016. Assistant Town Manager Steve Magoon earned $117,000.

        Watertown is getting what it pays for with the Town Council (to be fair, I think that they ALL go above & beyond for that tiny compensation). These positions are far too important to essentially be volunteer work & I would prefer that the people earning the $171,000 & $117,000 salaries (the lesser of which is still more than the entire council & school board combined) be accountable to voters.

        For those unfamiliar with our town gov’t structure, the Town Manager gets an annual contract (most recent was 2 years) renewed by the Town Council & never has to answer to voters which I believe is seriously contributing to Watertown’s growing problems.

        This isn’t meant as an attack on Driscoll or Magoon it’s about our form of gov’t & making gov’t more accountable to its constituency,

        Article & complete list of Watertown salaries for 2016

        Our former Superintendent tops the list at $263k for 2016, for running our A+ school system that includes a high school that nearly lost accreditation this year, but we need a new $1 million track & second $1 million dollar turf field – do you see the lunacy in that? (our schools are actually a 6/10 & the Superintendent quit in Oct, arguably due to enormous in-fighting in our small but rapidly growing city)

        Watertown needs change & I don’t believe that new town councilors are enough, we need to change the structure.

        • I would not say the high school almost lost accreditation. The report said the school is in serious need of upgrading. Efforts have started to start renovating all 5 schools. School officials are applying for state money for the high school this month.

          • Charlie,
            Thank you for also pointing out in your article that the track and Victory Field Phase II ARE PART OF OUR SCHOOL FACILITIES and are shown as one the big reasons we’re at risk of losing our accreditation! It’s pretty clear that the delay by the Town Council to remedy this situation is putting our schools (and children’s safety) at risk. Victory Field would have been completed by now if the Town Council had had the intestinal fortitude to follow the original plan.

            Anne, did your even read the NEASC accreditation report?? If so, you left out the part that said we “Need to upgrade the track, tennis courts, locker rooms, trainer’s room and parking lot at Victory Field” That’s right Anne. Now our school is at risk because of people playing politics with our kids safety. You also don’t seem to have a problem with firefighters and cops make $200k per year, but a new track for the community – nope. I’ll also remind you it’s the Town Council who allocates money to our school facilities (including Victory Field) and they have failed our children. Your solution is to pay them more. I say pay them what they have and just ask them to do their jobs!

            Here’s the top 10 Salaries in Watertown:

            Jean Fitzgerald (WPS) – $263,419

            Christopher Munger (WPD) – $237,934

            Raymond Dupuis (WPD) – $216,934

            Daniel Tardif (WFD)- $204,042

            Joseph Kelly (WPD) – $197,550

            Thomas McManus (WFD) – $197,065

            Kenneth Delaney (WPD) – $194,381

            David Gilcrest (WPD) – $190,189

            Robert Iannetta (WFD) – $189,792

            Mario Orangio (WFD) – $184,674

          • Concerned Parent you continue to sound more like a spoiled child who wants dessert after disregarding your protein & vegetables than an actual Concerned Parent.

            My apologies, the high school didn’t almost lose its accreditation, it was “put on warning in 19 areas” (all facilities related, the track being one part of one of the 19 items) & Watertown is now being “required to submit a report in September this year giving an update of what we will be doing to address these areas.” because “the school site and plant do not support the delivery of high quality school programs and services.”

            As a result “Given these concerns, the Committee voted to place the school on warning for the Standard on Community Resources for Learning.”

            Concerned Parent, your pseudonym is really a misnomer given that all you seem to be concerned about is the track – seriously, you’re not concerned about inadequate space & equipment in the science labs?

            Honestly, the science labs DON’T HAVE GAS & all you complain about is that the town (which as Charlie pointed out) owns Victory Field making it a town resource that it allows the high school to use) hasn’t agreed to spend $1million on a new track when Victory Field Phase I fell $1.2million short of its fundraising goal forcing the town to take out that amount in additional bonds (bonds & the interest are repaid with taxes).

            All you’ve complained about is a new track; the report cited one line item that as you so astutely pointed out which includes several other athletic facilities.

            I’m curious Concerned Parent, why you didn’t respond to my suggestion on the Watertown Shuttle Delayed article (where you brought up these same complaints) to go raise $1.5 million for Victory Field Phase II then come back & talk to us?

            Because I have read the NEASC report, I’ll cite all 19 warnings here so everyone can know that there isn’t a handicap accessible bathroom in the nurse’s office – a Concerned Parent would surely see how important that is – or how about the aging bathroom infrastructure, I absolutely believe that WORKING BATHROOMS throughout the school IS A SERIOUS PRIORITY FOR THE WHOLE Watertown High School Community.

            Concerned Parent, you want to talk about our children being put at risk (& thinking about other things more important than a new track): How about the lack of sufficiently sized classroom spaces for all classes? The warped or broken floor tiles due to water damage? The leaky ceiling in the teachers’ lunch room? Peeling paint and falling debris from ceilings? Windows that do not stay open? Broken and missing window shades? Windows w/out screens? Broken water fountains? As I have previously stated, safe buildings are my top priority because if they’re not safe in the building, they’re not going to be learning.

            Also on the NEASC list is insufficient space & storage for music, drama & choral programs. Again I’ll mention that I haven’t heard the parents of music & drama students complaining about the multiple issues that the report brought to light concerning their children’s interest & extra-curriculars.

            If you’re so concerned about your child having access to a high quality track maybe you need to send them to a different school or move to a city with a great track. Watertown has schools that are rated a 6/10 MY PRIORITY is safe buildings, then IMPROVING WATERTOWN ACADEMIC CREDENTIALS & our childrens’ preparedness for college & the 21 century job market – not just our athletic programs.

            Here is the complete list of 19 warnings received by WHS which resulted in an overall warning for WHS:
            Nevertheless, the Committee expressed concern regarding the school’s adherence to the Standard on Community Resources for Learning. Concerns include, but are not limited to, the following:
            the school site and plant do not support the delivery of high quality school programs and services, including:
            the science labs, which do not ensure adequate space for both lab and classroom activities
            the lack of gas in science classrooms
            the need for additional storage space for both the music program and the drama program
            the lack of classroom space for the band, orchestra, and choral programs to accommodate all students who want to enroll
            the lack of conference space for teacher and parent meetings
            the need for upgrades to Victory Field, the track, tennis courts, parking lot, locker rooms, and the trainer’s room
            the lack of a handicap accessible bathroom in the nurse’s suite
            the leaky ceiling in the teachers’ lunch room
            the broken water fountains
            the aging bathroom infrastructure
            the broken and missing window shades
            the windows that do not stay open or are missing screens
            the inadequate parking for school staff
            the peeling paint and falling debris from ceilings in the building
            the warped or broken floor tiles due to water damage
            the need for additional space for student seating during lunches
            the old equipment in the school kitchen
            the lack of sufficiently sized classroom spaces for all classes

            Again I’ll ask Concerned Parent, what do you contribute to the conversation besides complaints?

            But the reaccreditation warning was a small part of my point about Watertown’s greater issue of needing more transparency & accountability from its leadership. I think that we need to seriously consider changing our form of city gov’t for more transparency & accountability.

            Concerned Parent, I have tremendous respect for our Police & Fire Department but if you want to call them out, good luck

    • Len, Gail….Beautifully written and I thank you for having the courage to write & publish your letter. My granddaughter is the 6th generation of my family to live in Watertown, my great Uncle Fran X. Mooney started the lunch program for the Watertown Public Schools. My grandfather and my dad were both Watertown Police Officers, my dad was also a K9 officer. I can’t believe how people are reacting and the attitude of disgust in some people. Watertown used to be a fun, family oriented town. Neighbors had friendships that lasted generations and you knew that you were safe. Now it’s not even close to the way it used to be…I have sooooo much more to say but I wouldn’t have enough space. We dont always have to be “politically correct”….just be realistic and thinkabout what you are forcing us “Townies” to comply with

  6. How exactly are we supposed to shout something from the roof tops if it goes without saying? If Watertown welcomes immigrants, then whats the big deal about standing in the square with a sign saying so?

    How would declaring ourselves a sanctuary city be a criticism of the police dept? They want immigrants to be comfortable speaking with them, and declaring the city a sanctuary would further that goal.

    And how is this partisan? It may not be popular the last few years, but it wasnt that long ago that leaders in the Republican party were supporting immigration reform. There has always been a variety of opinions on both sides of the aisle, and that remains the case today.

  7. The present Town Council is no longer representative of the residents of Watertown. (Majority) Instead the Council is attempting to make this wonderful town in which I grew up, another Cambridge. Please reconsider. We do not want to become “sanctuary “, which, by the way, is ILLEGAL. Voters, rise up!

  8. GREAT JOB GALE, and very well put together. I 1000% agree. Growing up in Watertown, I have watched many immigrants come. We went to school, worked, played sports with, just hung with, etc.
    We never had to hold up a sign that says “HEY you can play with me” it was just known. We each have learned different cultures – from foods to traditions – again we didn’t need a sign that states that.
    Making Watertown a ‘sanctuary is stating that it wasn’t’ when that is not true at all. It has always been – it just wasn’t on the forefront with neon lights – it was in the hearts and minds of the people in the town.

    Congratulations Gale on your article! Again Great Job

  9. Gale, perfectly said. As an immigrant myself and my family and I went through the process of entering this country legally, I too oppose Watertown becoming a sanctuary city. It’s a slap in the face to all of us who took the time to apply, be approved, and then be allowed to be a part of this great nation just to essentially break the law and harbor illegal immigrants to chose to not do the same. Illegal immigrants should return to their country of origin and go through the process as we legal immigrants did. And you spoke the truth about our officers at WPD. They are the most professional and community oriented law enforcement that I have ever known. Stop spreading unnecessary fear and stop forcing residents that oppose such nonsense to have to endure it. Great letter Gale.

  10. An excellent letter, Gale. Of course you will be criticized by those who see no difference in immigrants and “illegal” immigrants, as in, breaking American laws by simply being here so don’t be surprised if a few of them attempt to label you as a racist or bigot since these pseudo-liberal, free speech advocates only embrace it only if you agree with their point of view. The fact is that a small minority of people in this town seek to make it a Sanctuary City simply to grandstand. They want to tell the world that the town they live provides “sanctuary” to the oppressed. I still recall the family who came to Cambridge under the guise of “political asylum”. They were provided refuge, a home, schooling and other benefits. One son killed 3 young men in Waltham, the other son left college for the Patriot’s Day weekend to help his brother murder 3 and maim scores more on Boylston street on Marathon Monday. The mother fled back to that “dangerous land” because she had warrants out for shop-lifting. the father joined her while one daughter went to New York and threatened to bomb a neighbor who argues with her. How can we forget the Tsarnaev family?

  11. I think it’s important to recognize that Watertown is already a de facto sanctuary city in that the Watertown Police Department will continue its long-standing policy of not inquiring into the immigration status of Watertown residents (http://watertown.wickedlocal.com/news/20170127/watertown-chief-vows-to-keep-immigrants-safe-even-without-sanctuary-status).

    Watertown Police also maintains a policy of jail diversion and treatment, through which people seeking support for substance abuse can come to the police, even if they are in possession of illegal drugs, without fear of legal consequences and get the help they need. (http://watertownpd.org/about/divisions/community-staff-development-division/jail-diversion-program/; http://paariusa.org/our-partners/)

    Both of these issues could be perceived as instances in which WPD is refusing to enforce federal law. In my opinion, they are smart approaches to humanely deal with very sensitive issues. WPD maintains these policies because they enable the police to do their job well by promoting trust and communication between the police and the community. However, their continued use depends on executive leadership, not in codified law.

    My concern is that if we do not move forward as a sanctuary city, or if we do not push our state legislators to codify the de facto decriminalization of drug possession, we will continue operating in a legal gray zone in which undocumented immigrants and drug users live in fear of what might happen to them if leadership changes. If we are already acting as a de facto sanctuary city and refusing to charge addicts with possession offenses, why not just take one step forward and make it official?

    • My reason against it is that there is a risk of losing federal funds. It seems fiscally irresponsible to throw away money in order to make a statement.

  12. Len Holt,
    Can you help me? I asked John Labadini this question, but he didn’t reply, maybe you can assist. Since you brought up the next election, I’m trying to find out some facts regarding last election – which will help inform my opinion about the next one . Just before last election John Labadini told the Watertown News the group Concerned Watertown Homeowners Association (that you and some other real estate brokers /developers founded) gave $2k to fund opposition to the CPA question. Elodia Thomas, in the same article, reported that Alyson Morales’ group Watertown Strong Schools raised $300. (this group includes Julie Cotton, Kate Coyne, and David Stokes as it’s most active members). Yet, in December, when the state of Mass. found both groups guilty of campaign finance violations they confessed the amounts spent were actually $3.9k for CWHA and $0 for WSS. It also said that CWHA paid for and supplied WSS with it’s own special signs. Can you confirm which numbers are right? Did John Labadini and Alyson Morales/Elodia Thomas lie to Watertown residents or did they lie to the state? If you can’t answer maybe someone from Watertown Strong Schools can help me find out the truth. It’s a simple question. Thanks in advance.

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