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Peterborough: a ‘sanctuary city’?


Tuesday, March 28, 2017

As members of Peterborough’s Select Board, we are writing this in response to many requests from residents about the board’s position on becoming a sanctuary city. Before taking a stance, we carefully considered the views expressed to us by residents as well as the potential implications that such a designation would have for the town.

Much of the discourse about the sanctuary city designation has invoked anecdotal evidence that draws on the experiences of immigrants and refugees in this community. However, that is not what the sanctuary city designation is about. Where immigrants and refugees have worked their way through what is often a very long and thorough visa process, a sanctuary city seeks to protect persons who intentionally as adults or unintentionally as children have sidestepped the visa process and have taken up residence as illegal aliens. There is a very clear distinction between immigrants and illegal aliens.

In New Hampshire, there are 75,000 foreign-born residents out of the state’s 1.3 million residents. It is important to note that without immigration, New Hampshire would have seen a net out-migration in population. Peterborough has a long history of welcoming immigrants and refugees to our community.

We have always believed that anyone who is willing to work hard to make a home for themselves and their families should receive the full support of the town and its residents. Immigrants and refugees are part of the fabric of this community, work in our businesses, volunteer in our organizations and have helped to make Peterborough strong and vibrant. We, the Select Board, are proud of Peterborough’s practice of welcoming legal immigrants and refugees to our community, and will continue to do so.

We agree with many of our state and federal legislators that immigration policy merits careful review, particularly with regards to the status of those illegal aliens who came here as children and are otherwise law-abiding, hard-working individuals. However, we do not believe that Peterborough’s Town Meeting is the right forum for such a debate. Towns in New Hampshire cannot pass articles that supersede state and federal laws; even if an article to make Peterborough a sanctuary city were to pass, it could not have an effect on law enforcement procedures or other aspects of town business. Instead, we urge those residents who feel strongly about this issue to direct their efforts toward those in Congress who have the power to make immigration policy that works fairly for all.

As your Select Board, we also have a fiduciary responsibility to our residents that we take very seriously.

Recently, the president has declared that any community that is deemed a sanctuary city will be denied federal funding. While it has been stated that such a blanket denial of federal funds may not hold up in court, it could well mean years of expensive legal wrangling and delayed projects before the sanctuary city receives the withheld funds. As we finally move toward reconstruction of the Main Street Bridge and Route 202 retaining wall, a $5 million project that has been in development for over a decade and is 80 percent funded by the Federal Highway Administration and the Department of Transportation, we believe that it would be irresponsible to our taxpayers to take such a risk, particularly over a stance that is not legally enforceable.

For these reasons, we the members of the Select Board have decided that we cannot support any effort to designate the town of Peterborough a sanctuary city. We urge all voters to vote No on any warrant article that calls for Peterborough to be considered a sanctuary city.

 

Barbara Miller, Ed Juengst and Tyler Ward are members of the Peterborough Select Board.