Councilors Frustrated With Mayor Over Welcoming Ordinance

FRAMINGHAM – In February, before a standing room only crowd, the Framingham City Council unanimously voted to create a task force that would write an ordinance to support immigrants in the city.

Proposed by District 7 City Councilor Margareth Shepard, the Council vote created a task force, to be chaired by Framingham Mayor Yvonne Spicer.

Members of the task force, which would include three Councilors, a member of the School Committee, a representative of the police department, a member from MetroWest Legal Services, and two residents to be appointed by the Mayor, would be tasked with writing an ordinance to welcome all to Framingham

Three months later, and the mayor’s office has done nothing.

SOURCE asked the Mayor’s office what progress has taken place and received this statement from the City’s Public Information Officer Kelly McFall said “While the ordinance does a fine job laying out the composition the task force, it does not clearly spell out the goals. We are working on that. When there’s an update, we will provide it.”

There was no ordinance passed by the City Council but rather a resolution passed unanimously tasking the Mayor to create and oversee a task force to propose a welcoming Framingham ordinance.

“It has been 3 months since the City Council passed a resolution calling for a welcoming ordinance task force. That is long enough. It is time to get to work in support of all of Framingham residents,” said District 3 City Councilor Adam Steiner.

Shepard, who was the first person to announce a run for City Councilor when Framingham became a City, was elected in 2017. She said she is sometimes called the “immigrant Councilor” or the “Brazilian Councilor” but that she wants the city to work together to help immigrants, both documents and undocumented.

“As a City Council I could have just proposed a Framingham Welcoming Immigrants Ordinance based on my knowledge about our immigrant community and on my political beliefs, but I don’t want to just pass an ordinance,” said Shepard. “We need to change the culture through an open and honest dialogue with all residents, hear their perceptions, their questions, their concerns, and provide information to fill the gaps and address misconceptions.  There is no recipe, or ready answer, that is why every city has a different ordinance.”

Shepard is disappointed the Mayor has not started to recruit members for the task force.

“As a government, we should never be afraid of a transparent public dialogue.  We need immigrants to answer the census. We need a real count to have the political representation that we are entitled to, and have adequate government financial resources according to our population.  We want the immigrants to trust us giving out their information. We need to earn their trust,” said Shepard.

“I had expected Councilor Shepard’s ordinance to be a priority for Mayor Spicer. I’m puzzled by what appears to be a lack of progress from the Mayor since the Council’s resolution three months ago,” said District 4 City Councilor Michael Cannon.

“A welcoming ordinance would be significant for a number of reasons: First, it would send the message that we not only acknowledge our immigrant community, but we embrace it,” said Shepard.

“Second, it would promote a healthy relationship between Framingham law enforcement and all immigrants,” said Shepard.

“Third, it would send a clear message that we stand in resolute opposition to the vast overreach of the federal government in its attempts to degrade, devalue, and destroy our immigrant community,” said Shepard.

“A welcoming ordinance is just the beginning of what we can do for our immigrants – but it is still worth doing,” said Shepard.

Back in February, State Rep, Maria Robinson spoke in favor of the task force. She said that her fellow Framingham state representatives Jack Patrick Lewis and Carmine Gentile were also in favor.

“Recognizing the significant role that immigrants play in the City of Framingham, and in our districts, we strongly support the creation of this task force to explore and investigate issues our immigrant community faces,” said Rep. Robinson.

She said at the state level, they are working on legislation that would tell immigrants they are “safe and welcome in Massachusetts.”

Framingham is home to one of the largest populations of Brazilian immigrants in the United States. But Framingham is also home to a large Hispanic, Central American, Russian, Indian, and Chinese population.

In fact, more than 75 languages are spoken in the Framingham Public School system.

Superintendent of Schools Bob Tremblay and the public school district’s director of bilingual education both spoke in favor of the task force creation in February.

It was a standing room only, diverse, multi-lingual crowd at the City Council meeting in which the City Council voted unanimously for the task force to be created.

Chair of the MetroWest Commission on the Status of Women Heather Panahi said in February the task force and the ordinance is needed as undocumented woman are “more vulnerable to domestic assault and economic inequality.”

Framingham Source Editor Susan Petroni

Susan Petroni Framingham Source Editor Email: Phone: 508-315-7176

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