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City Council

I Go To City Council Meetings #10

A Resolution to end separation of immigrant children from their families & confusing property rights dialogue


On Thursday, June 21, the Northampton City Council held their eleventh meeting of the year. Councilor David Murphy (Ward 5) was present but left after the financial portion of the meeting. Approximately 5 people were present including Senatorial candidate Chelsea Kline. The Gazette and MassLive were not present.

Public Comment

Multiple community members expressed their support for a resolution to end the separation of immigrant children from their families.

When referring to the Trump administration’s policy of separating children, Kenneth Pratt, a veteran who has lived in the Pioneer Valley for decades, said, “I did not go to Nam’ for this.” He said he was particularly concerned about the portion of children who were separated from their families that may be disabled.

Chelsea Kline, who is a Northampton resident and candidate for the State Senate, thanked the Council for creating the resolution. She encouraged them to strengthen the language to include not just an end to future family separations, but to also include the reunification of families who have already been separated.

Latisha Ward shared, “I think we need to support this. Families are important. We need to support and respect other people’s differences.”

Alex Jarrett spoke in favor of the resolution and talked about the affordability of living in Northampton. He encouraged councilors to figure out what they can do on a local level to create more affordable housing and acknowledged that the root of housing affordability issues in Northampton is an unjust class system. He shared, “People can’t afford to live here or buy here anymore. There are many good projects, but there aren’t enough.”

A resolution calling for an end to the separation of immigrant children from their families

The Council voted unanimously in favor of a resolution calling for an end to the separation of immigrant children from their families which was sponsored by Councilors Alisa Klein (Ward 7), Gina-Louise Sciarra (Ward 4), and Marianne LaBarge (Ward 6).

When introducing the resolution, Council President Ryan O’Donnell clarified that it had been amended in the time between when it was originally written and when Trump’s executive order had been enacted on June 20. The three cosponsors of the resolution spoke about the need for the resolution and their objections to the Trump administration’s policy on immigration.

Councilor Klein stressed that the executive order that Trump issued did nothing to address the problems created by his zero tolerance policy. “Keeping families together is also problematic. Children could be incarcerated with parents for many many years.” She also noted the need to begin plans for reunification. “Since April, many childrens’ parents have been returned to countries of origin. Parents aren’t available for reunification. There are no plans in place for that.”

Councilor Gina-Louise Sciarra said that the injustice of family separations must be addressed now, not later, “We need to do everything we can not to whitewash this very shameful moment in history. Reunification is the very least that should be done. I don’t want it to take decades or 50 years, or a century for apologies.” She grappled with the magnitude of impact that separation has on families, children in particular, “There is no way to undo this trauma. I don’t know what justice would be for this. It is important for us to speak as loudly as we can about it.”

Councilor LaBarge said that family incarceration is not a victory and accused the Trump administration of child abuse. She reminded everyone that, ”We are all someone’s child.” And encouraged people to be vocal in their opposition, “No politician should be able to hide from these images.”

Councilor Dwight weighed in as well, saying, “We are a nation that pays lip service to the notion of child abduction. There is an Amber Alert every time a child is taken by someone. But this is a wholesale state sponsored child abduction.”

Councilor Bidwell pointed out that during the Holocaust, families were kept together. “In those unspeakable circumstances, babies and teenagers were kept with their parents.”

No one mentioned, however, the child separation that stems from racist institutions like mass incarceration or the (often related) foster care system, both of which continue to break up families.

Property Pins and Road Widenings

The Council went on to discuss property pins, road widenings, and “land taking” for about an hour. I am currently in the process of learning this strange technocratic language and will attempt to translate it for you as time goes on.

I left this meeting with a few questions:

Would the Council be willing to unanimously support a resolution to stop the separation of non-immigrant children from their parents? I.e Would the Council support a resolution to abolish prisons?

What the fuck is a property pin? (Apparently they can be dug up.)

Can we dig them all up and then compost them?

Blair Gimma is a co-editor of The Shoestring. They are alive in Northampton, MA. 

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