Titled “Resolution welcoming new residents,” the idea was put forward by Sanctuary Brunswick, an organization dedicated to the acceptance of immigrants. With the resolution, the council said the town would “welcome and support the successful integration of immigrants into our community as it also seeks to deepen the sensitivity of our citizens to the challenges faced by our newest neighbors.”
The decision comes after the council approved a new banner in the town office that depicts a variety of ethnicities and the phrase “Welcome New Mainers.” Supporters of the resolution said it follows the same sentiment as the banner.
The resolution also mentions a number of other minorities and includes acceptance of all sexual orientations, gender identities and races.
However some residents came out against the resolution, saying they fear that it, coupled with the banner, is a step toward the town putting itself against state and federal law.
“I find the banner and the resolution a means towards an end to a sanctuary town that can eventually oppose federal laws,” said Jim Sanoski. Sanctuary cities limit cooperation with federal efforts to enforce immigration law.
Sanoski said he had problems with the potential legal pitfalls and the possibility the town might run afoul of federal law. He added that Brunswick has always been a welcoming community and that a resolution stating such was unnecessary. He also criticized the banner, saying he didn’t see depictions of Caucasians.
Councilor David Watson was the lone dissenting vote, and said the lack of any language stating that the resolution is aimed only at legal immigrants, not illegal immigrants, prevented him from voting for it.
“As a police officer I can’t condone criminal conduct,” he said.
The resolution does not distinguish between legal and undocumented immigrants, although it does specify supporting civil liberties and human rights “without regard to … citizenship or immigration status.”
Watson made a motion to add the word “legal” to the mention of immigration, but it failed to gain any support.
By contrast, other councilors commented wholeheartedly in support of the resolution. Councilor Steve Walker said he’d approve the town going even further.
“I certainly would support the next step of Brunswick becoming a sanctuary city if that’s what it came to,” he said.
Councilor Kathy Wilson, who also supported the resolution, said that her own experiences in Brunswick indicate the town isn’t always welcoming.
“Coming from a community of people who are often discriminated against and not welcomed, as a gay person, this does cover that in here,” she said.
Wilson was the target of an anti-LGBT flier that was distributed to some residents in September. She received anti-gay hate mail after articles in multiple publications appeared about the flier.
“This isn’t going to change laws,” she said. “What this does is just extend a hand that says you’re welcome here.”
Brunswick formed a human rights task force in 2015 after Bowdoin students said they were accosted by people yelling racial slurs and other insults at them on multiple occasions.
“Students were being verbally assaulted passing through our town,” said Councilor Jane Millett. She added that adopting a simple welcoming message does not make Brunswick a sanctuary city.
“If we get to that step, you can certainly have your say,” she said. “But this is not what this is.”