We live in strange times – when facts no longer are facts but, rather, alternative facts, and Republican elected officials tie themselves in knots defending President Donald Trump over blatant abuses of power and obstruction of Congress. Many of us are frustrated that we can do little about this, which is why I have long believed true change can be most effective at the local level. I often tell young people that they will create change more effectively by acting on a local level first. Marriage equality comes to mind as a perfect example of change that began at the local level.

My own immigrant activism has morphed into something even more individualized, for personal reasons: Walking into City Hall is difficult and painful for me emotionally. I no longer enjoy or believe it’s important for me to attend or speak at City Council meetings.

Until Monday evening.

A “Welcoming City Ordinance,” first presented in May, was once again being heard and deliberated by the council to, in essence, make our sanctuary city status more powerful and legitimate.

It was sent to the Ordinance Committee in October, then tabled until the new term due to our city solicitor being “unprepared” to work with the committee.

During my public comment, I spoke about the utter negligence – not only by staff and the City Manager’s Office but, I believe, by councillors who should be ashamed for not holding highly paid city staff accountable. This is not the first time this has occurred, either. Our Commission on Immigrant Rights & Citizenship sat dormant, unstaffed for more then 10 years after the City Council of 2006 passed and approved its creation. I have to wonder why there is a recurrence of city negligence when it involves our immigrant neighbors? Do some city employees have hidden agendas not favorable to our immigrant neighbors, and are our elected officials afraid of confronting city staff?

During council deliberations Monday regarding the Welcoming City Ordinance I heard city councillors congratulating each other for their leadership on this matter. Not one asked the cause of delays, why city staff was unprepared previously or how we are preparing for what many immigrant activists believe will be an all-out attack on all immigrants over the next 10 months leading up to November elections.

Trump has shown authoritarian tendencies toward many of our government institutions. What makes anyone believe he will stop? What happens if his administration wins reelection? Our community is unprepared, yet our city councillors believe they should be congratulated for their leadership.

As I said Monday: We should be ashamed.


Emmanuel “Manny” Lusardi is an East Cambridge resident, longtime immigrant activist and former liaison for immigrant affairs to the Cambridge Mayor’s Office.