From the first-ever National Women’s Rights Convention in 1850 to the marriage equality movement on Beacon Hill, Massachusetts is often among the first states to stand on the right side of history. Here in Lexington, we have a proud record of standing up to government bullies; we were, after all, the site of “the shot heard round the world.”
Now, our community has the opportunity to again pick the right side of history by standing up to the xenophobic policies of the Trump administration that threaten our most basic values of inclusivity, acceptance, and democracy.

Decades from now, history will judge how Massachusetts – including our town of Lexington – treated immigrants. A number of Massachusetts municipalities have already passed policies designed to build trust between immigrant communities and the local police by limiting involvement in federal immigration enforcement. From Boston to Amherst, about a dozen cities and towns have drawn a clear line between the roles of federal immigration authorities and local agencies.

The federal government too often relies on local agencies to help deport millions of people. In Massachusetts, it happens every day when local jails detain people at the request of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) or when local police send information about a person in custody to ICE.

Beginning this week, Lexington will consider a resolution that proposes new rules preventing the police department from arresting or detaining people based on their immigration status. The Welcoming, Inclusive, Safe Community Bylaw would protect the civil rights of people who live in Lexington by making sure local resources are not used to help the Trump administration deport immigrants. It echoes the Safe Communities Act, a bill in the Massachusetts Legislature designed to ensure that state, local, and campus police do not participate in expansive immigration enforcement activities. Our police resources should be used to fight crime – not separate families.

By ensuring residents do not need to fear detention due to immigration status, we’re actually able to make our community safer by building stronger trust between immigrant communities and law enforcement while still allowing police to fight local crime. Studies show that when the immigrant community feels safer – when people aren’t afraid of their local government – they feel free to participate fully in the lives of their communities. They work, send their children to school, run businesses, and – perhaps most importantly – report crime and cooperate with police. The result? A better, safer place to live for everyone.

Make no mistake: this is bigger than voting for safer communities or wiser management of police resources. This is about once again standing up for our Lexington values. For more than 300 years, Massachusetts leaders have helped shaped our nation’s consciousness on civil rights. Now, we need to signal that kind of courage on behalf of immigrants in our community by voting for the Welcoming, Inclusive, Safe Community Bylaw and supporting state adoption of the Safe Communities Act.
Carol Rose is the executive director of the ACLU of Massachusetts, and lives in Lexington.