In his letter to the editor published on November 1, Kevin J. McCarthy misinterprets Article 21 of the Town Meeting warrant when he construes it as an accusation that Falmouth is “hostile” to certain groups, and when he confuses the obedience to federal law with the power of state and local authorities to enforce federal law.
The preface to Article 21 condemns an “elevated national climate of hostility” toward certain groups, not a local one. Here in Falmouth, No Place for Hate is active and, although we have just experienced a hostile act of anti-Semitism, the quick and sincere condemnation that followed also proves that our local climate is not hostile but welcoming. Article 21 applauds that attitude, as confirmed by the policies of our local police department, and seeks to affirm the town’s support through Town Meeting.
The board of selectmen “fully supports the spirit of the article.” The article was indefinitely postponed only because town counsel advised that Town Meeting “does not have authority to adopt law enforcement policies that are binding on the Police Department.” I understand that the proponents of the article will seek to amend it to make clear that it is a “non-binding resolution and does not direct or control” the police department. Hopefully, we then can all join in affirming support for the police department in its respect for “individual rights and human dignity.”
Mr. McCarthy also confuses obeying federal law with enforcing it. I once taught law to foreign law students. The first thing I taught them was that we have 51 legal systems in the United States, one federal system and 50 state systems. The highest court in Massachusetts made clear in Lunn v. Commonwealth, 477 Mass. 517, decided in 2017, that state and local authorities in Massachusetts do not have the power to enforce federal immigration law. Here in Falmouth our police department recognizes that rule.
As I understand it, Article 21 would not make Falmouth “a sanctuary town.” However, it will keep us all safer by making clear to all our citizens, whether documented or not, that they can safely talk to our local police if they are victims of a crime or are witnesses to a crime. I sincerely hope that Article 21, once amended, will be adopted by Town Meeting, and I strongly support it.
Judith S. Ziss