Immigration Advocates Push For A 'Welcoming' Ordinance In Lebanon | New Hampshire Public Radio

Immigration Advocates Push For A 'Welcoming' Ordinance In Lebanon

Dec 5, 2019

Credit Courtesy of U.S. Customs and Border Protection

Immigration advocates in Lebanon are hoping to get a "welcoming" ordinance approved in that city. 

Under the ordinance, city employees could not ask about a person’s immigration status or participate in immigration enforcement actions. 

Yolanda Huerta is with Rise Upper Valley, an activist organization working on immigration issues. She says she and others have lost faith that reforms will happen on the federal level. 

"This hasn't been something we've been satisfied with, but finally we've met people who are also in that mindset of changing local policy to try and enforce this,” she said. 

Huerta says that the proposed ordinance is part of a broader effort to get policies like this passed in nearby Hanover, and in the Vermont towns of Norwich and Hartford.  

“We're hopeful in seeing a ripple effect going out from these four different cities and going to the surrounding areas,” she said. 

This year dozens of people in the Upper Valley were detained by federal immigration authorities during roving patrols and at a checkpoint on I-89.  

Organizers need 610 signatures on their petition for it to move forward in Lebanon.  So far, they've collected about 400.

Huerta says as she’s collected signatures, she’s come across some people who aren’t aware of what’s happened in the Upper Valley in the past few months. 

“There is the reaction of, ‘Racism is over,’ some folks are of that mindset,” Huerta said. “Through talking with them, giving them these accounts has provided them a basis for understanding what’s happening in the area.” 

Other municipalities around the state, including Dublin and Harrisville, have passed non-binding resolutions directing police not to ask about immigration status or report it to federal authorities. 

The city of Portsmouth has a resolution affirming Portsmouth as a “welcoming community.” 

"There is the reaction of, 'Racism is over,' some folks are of that mindset."

That includes maintaining the Portsmouth Police Department’s standard operating procedure of not initiating police actions with the primary objective of discovering a person’s immigration status.   

According to Lebanon Police Chief Richard Mello, the police department does not work directly with federal immigration officials, nor do they ask about a person’s citizenship status when filing a report locally.

The proposed Lebanon ordinance does include a provision that if the city of Lebanon becomes aware of the presence of federal immigration authorities in the city, “for the purposes of questioning, detaining, or gathering immigration status information” then it “shall immediately act to inform residents of the city of that presence.”