A Taneytown councilman's bid to declare that the Carroll County city is no sanctuary for illegal immigrants failed in a 3-2 vote last night, as dozens of people turned out to witness the conclusion of weeks of public debate.
The resolution, drafted by Councilman Paul Chamberlain Jr., would have said that the community of about 5,500 is "not a sanctuary city" for illegal immigrants. While dozens of cities, law enforcement agencies and others throughout the nation have adopted policies that limit local cooperation with federal immigration enforcement, Taneytown's proposed resolution seemed to be distinct.
"This resolution was brought forth because of the concerns of voting citizens of this city. It is reaffirming that we are not a sanctuary city," Chamberlain said in front of the dozens who filled the city fire company's activities building, where the meeting was held instead of in the smaller council chambers.
Some in the crowd carried signs, provided by a resident at the door, that read "Stop Illegals."
The resolution called for city officials and employees "to support the enforcement of our nation's immigration and nationality laws by local, state, and federal government officials, to the full extent permitted by law."
"We believe that we should stand up and not turn a blind eye to persons who circumvent the rule of law," it stated, and added that "being a 'sanctuary city' ... would demean and harm civic life and good order."
Councilman Carl E. Ebaugh joined Chamberlain in support of the resolution, while Councilman Angelo A. Zambetti, Mayor Pro Tem Jacquelyn J. Boisvert and Councilman Henry C. Heine Jr. opposed it, saying they saw no need for it.
Chamberlain said the statement stemmed from the need to send a message regarding illegal immigration - and to highlight the fact that undocumented individuals are breaking the law. Although Taneytown doesn't have many immigrants, he said, the resolution is about being proactive.
Ebaugh said it was important to "do this now instead of kneejerk later."
"I just personally think, and this is not meant as an affront to any nationality ... but if they're going to be here, let's make sure they're legal," Ebaugh said in an interview.
Other council members said the resolution was a waste of the city's time, and that the council's attention should be focused on other issues that affect Taneytown residents.
"I personally see no reason for the resolution. ... It's not about stopping them at the border. It's not about keeping them out of hospitals," Zambetti said. "It is [about] law enforcement in the city of Taneytown. ... It's a resolution to enforce the law."
And that is something local law enforcement is doing, said Zambetti, Boisvert and Heine.
"The police enforce the laws ... to the fullest extent," Boisvert said before casting her vote. She said that she agreed the city should not have illegal immigrants.
Heine said that the police had received no order to "go soft" on illegal immigrants.
"Taneytown is not, and I repeat, not, a sanctuary city," Heine said, adding that he didn't see the need for "a resolution that is redundant."
The sanctuary city issue extends to the state and national level. Republican presidential candidates Mitt Romney and Rudolph W. Giuliani have traded barbs on the subject, with Romney saying New York was a haven for illegal immigrants during the former mayor's tenure. Giuliani said Romney had a "sanctuary mansion" as Massachusetts governor, with "illegal immigrants" working on his home, and doing nothing about several so-called sanctuary cities.
Representatives from immigration and advocacy groups have said such an anti-sanctuary resolution could foster distrust among immigrant communities, and consequently thwart law enforcement strategies such as community policing.
Several individuals, some of whom addressed the council before its vote, had a different take on the matter.
Alan and Faye Lerman, who have lived in the city about a year, said they felt illegal immigrants should line up with those who wait years to enter the country legally.
"This is a country of immigrants - and that's good," Alan Lerman said. But for his immigrant ancestors, Lerman said, "coming to the United States was a big thing, and they paid mega dues to do it."
Indeed, Faye Lerman said, "there are a lot of people who wait a long time to come here legally."
For Michael Murphy, a local construction worker who provided the Lermans and others with "Stop Illegals" signs, it was a matter of sending a message.
"I'm in direct competition with people who aren't citizens of this country," Murphy said.
The sanctuary resolution came more than a year after another measure that the council adopted, which made English the city's official language. It also followed a more recent suggestion from County Commissioner Michael D. Zimmer that the county consider denying services to adult illegal immigrants.
Taneytown resident Dee Wilson said he walked out of the meeting satisfied.
"I loved it," Wilson said of the vote. "I only regret that it wasn't unanimous. ... I just cannot see a reason to have these types of resolutions."
But fellow resident Dallas Subock was displeased that the resolution didn't pass.
"I think it would have been a wise statement," he said.