Interviews

Somerville, Massachusetts mayor speaks out

On 'Your World,' Mayor Curtatone fires back at the sheriff calling for the arrest of sanctuary city officials

 

This is a rush transcript from "Your World," March 31, 2017. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

NEIL CAVUTO, HOST: There was mayor in Somerville, Massachusetts, who said that that -- you're acting like a thug. How do you respond to that?

THOMAS HODGSON, SHERIFF OF BRISTOL COUNTY, MASSACHUSETTS: The thugs are the people we're looking for.

The -- the people that are enforcing the laws, like myself, and insisting that mayors or anyone else who decides to harbor or conceal someone they know to be illegal, under federal law, it's a felony punishable up to five years per alien.

Those are the people that really are the problem.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CAVUTO: All right, that Massachusetts sheriff might be then saying of our next guess, the mayor of Somerville, Massachusetts, that he should be arrested right now.

The mayor is with me right now, Joseph Curtatone.

Mayor, thank you for coming.

JOSEPH CURTATONE, D-MAYOR OF SOMERVILLE, MASSACHUSETTS: Neil, thank you for having me.

CAVUTO: What did you think of what he was saying? He would arrest you, if he had his druthers.

CURTATONE: Well, clearly, he's not successful, because I'm here before you.

But I find his comments ridiculous and disturbing and really a parroting of the misinformation and lies about undocumented immigration and sanctuary cities.

And let me be clear. Sanctuary cities do not harbor -- like, Somerville, do not harbor violent people. We work cooperatively with our federal law enforcement agencies.

I, in fact, have officers assigned to ICE, the DEA and FBI. And if you're a dangerous person, you commit a felony or a violent crime, we're going to work them to remove you. We do that now. And we will continue to do so.

CAVUTO: But what if an ICE official tells you, Mayor, look, we have heard it on the highest authority that there are a couple of suspicious criminals within your community? What would you say?

CURTATONE: We work with those officers and those agencies, Neil. What we will not do is violate the Constitution.

And the federal courts have held that holding someone without a criminal warrant, without just cause is a violation of the Constitution. In fact, communities that have -- local departments and communities that have worked in that manner have been found to be financially and civilly liable.

So, we do work with those agencies. In fact, crime in Somerville since we have been a sanctuary city in 1987 is down 52.9 percent. And I have invited the sheriff to come...

(CROSSTALK)

CAVUTO: But all crime nationally has come down since the 80s, hasn't it?

CURTATONE: True. And it's not the only reason crime is down.

But independent studies have shown, from organizations like the National Criminal Justice Reference Service, that there's no connection between high immigration and high crime.

In fact, in some cases, not all, but in some, high-end undocumented immigration -- immigration status in communities has seen communities with lower crime rates.

But, look, here's Somerville, a sanctuary city since 1987. Crime is down at an all-time low. Violent crime in my city is lower than the state and national average.

(CROSSTALK)

CAVUTO: Let's take just even the crime out of it, though, sir, if we could for a second.

CURTATONE: OK.

CAVUTO: Because what the sheriff was saying, if these sanctuary cities are going to harbor and conceal criminal illegal aliens from ICE, which is in direct violation of Title 8 of the U.S. Code, federal arrest warrants should be issued. What do you say?

CURTATONE: Yes. Well, that's absurd.

First of all, Neil, I would submit we are not in violation. We, Somerville, Massachusetts, as many communities who have sanctuary status are, we are fully in compliance. We would with our fellow agencies.

If you're a dangerous person, you don't get a free pass here. That's not the case, in fact. But we're not going to do is vilify or be bullied to vilify undocumented immigrants. The reason...

CAVUTO: But you're also an accomplished lawyer. You have gone to Boston College...

(LAUGHTER)

CAVUTO: ... Harvard John F. Kennedy School of Government. You kind of know the law.

I don't. I'm not a lawyer. But I did look up this Section 8 code. And it does say that anyone who assists an alien should reasonably know is illegally in the U.S. or who lacks employment authorization by transporting, sheltering or assisting him or her to obtain employment, knowingly assists illegal aliens due to personal convictions, essentially what they're saying is, you have just broken the law.

CURTATONE: No.

Well, let me -- again, let me restate. We're not violating any federal existing laws.

(CROSSTALK)

CAVUTO: Do you buy that definition? That is the definition. That's the amended definition when this whole code was updated after the 9/11 attacks.

CURTATONE: So, I also was sworn to uphold the -- yes, I was also sworn to uphold the Constitution, which I will do. We will not hold people without just cause.

And let me answer this on another point here as well. We in this country, everyone, Republicans, Democrats, we all own this immigration problem, system, which is broken, which is virtually a set of rules without any order.

We have allowed undocumented immigration to continue for years. I think we can all agree with that. And we have said to the 11-million plus undocumented immigrants, take the lowest-paying, dirtiest jobs. Stay in the shadows. Keep your head down.

And we have allowed this to go on. And now we rely on that population now to bolster up our economy, our farm industry. And we want to treat them with disrespect and violate the Constitution.

(CROSSTALK)

CAVUTO: Mayor, what the sheriff is saying, what the sheriff is saying is that the law is the law is the law, your compassion notwithstanding.

And I don't doubt your decency, that the authority of the commission and the INS in providing for re-delegation of this authority is the equivalent provision that vests all authorities and functions of Department of Homeland Security to administer and enforce the immigration laws in the form of secretary of the homeland security.

So, you, whatever your convictions that most of the people in this sanctuary city, your city, are fine, you could be setting yourself up for breaking the law as the law stands now, whatever the Constitution says. This is the law. You would willingly break that?

CURTATONE: Neil, you're speaking as to the law of this regulation stands now.

The Constitution is prevalent. And it does not -- it's not dynamic in that fashion. We cannot, will not -- and we're sworn to uphold the Constitution. But...

CAVUTO: But you can understand a sheriff who is also duty-bound to uphold the law as it stands now.

And these latest provisions were added after the 9/11 attacks. But I guess what I'm asking -- no, but just bear me out. And, believe me, I will let you answer, sir.

(CROSSTALK)

CAVUTO: If an authority comes to you in the highest venue, we believe that there are some rogue elements within your community, Mayor, and we want to work with your local enforcement people to weed them out, to track them down, and this might sound like a raid, but they're trying to find these individuals, would you as the mayor of Somerville say no?

CURTATONE: Yes, we would work with those authorities where they have a criminal warrant to seek these individuals.

(CROSSTALK)

CAVUTO: So, they need a warrant? They're going to need a warrant to present to you?

CURTATONE: What we're not going to do, Neil, what we're not going to do is based -- is target people based on a suspicion of their immigration status.

But when ICE comes to us -- and this happens often -- and say, we're going to conduct a raid for these, for example, known gang members, drug dealers, a violent person, yes, we work with them to remove those individuals for our community.

And this is a -- this is where I say the sheriff is parroting misinformation. And you should know something about the way sheriff's departments work in our state, unlike a lot of the country, where most -- a lot of the country, the sheriffs in the counties have a lot -- drive a lot of the public safety initiatives and programming and operations.

That's not the case in Massachusetts. All Sheriff Hodgson does is basically transport prisoners to and from the courts and the jailhouse just house of corrections that he manages. He has no involvement with local police virtually on any level.

(CROSSTALK)

CAVUTO: What do you make of what do you make of your colleague -- Michelle DuBois -- I hope I pronounced that right -- I guess she represents Brockton and the state -- the state representative.

She posted warnings on Facebook about possible immigration raids in the city. Do you think she is breaking the law?

CURTATONE: Yes, I understand -- well, I think what her actions speak to is the fear and uncertainty created by all the misinformation.

(CROSSTALK)

CAVUTO: I understand that. Do you think she's breaking the law?

CURTATONE: But we need to -- first of all, if we can just make sure we're relying on facts and information when we talk about immigration in sanctuary cities.

(CROSSTALK)

CAVUTO: Well, that's what she said. That's what she said.

(CROSSTALK)

CAVUTO: No, wait, wait. She said, sir, that -- she said that she would warn illegals in her community that there was an ICE raid or some ICE event happening.

Did she go too far saying that?

CURTATONE: I think we would not -- certainly, if we're -- in Somerville, if we're working with ICE and federal agents and agencies to remove known dangerous people and people that where they have criminal warrants for, we're not going to publicize that, and we don't do that.

And we have a good reputation and history of working with those agencies and cooperating with them.

(CROSSTALK)

CAVUTO: So, then, Mayor, the other question that comes in protecting illegals, in protecting who are illegally here, whatever their reasons -- and they might be good and fine folks -- you risk losing federal funding for your city.

Now, how do you then go back...

CURTATONE: No, I don't believe so.

CAVUTO: How do you go back then to your legal residents, your legal citizens when they wonder why school funding has been cut that you are standing up for illegals in your city, so that's what just they are going to have to deal with?

CURTATONE: Well, when I speak to my community, when I speak to my community, Neil and on behalf of our community about commitment to our undocumented residents in our city, I speak as one with the community.

We have been -- we have been a sanctuary city now for over 30 years. And in that time, our community has prospered.

CAVUTO: But if you lose funding -- you have never lost federal funding. You have never lost that.

CURTATONE: No.

(CROSSTALK)

CAVUTO: Now, if there's a real threat you could, how will they feel? How will you explain it to them that they have lost funding for schools, for public transportation, for whatever? How are you going to justify that to them?

(CROSSTALK)

CURTATONE: Sure.

Well, allow me to answer this. And I would appreciate it.

CAVUTO: Sure.

CURTATONE: On, we -- here's how we explain it.

We're not going to run away from who we are as a community. We're not going to run away from our values of treating everybody decently and fairly and a society that we envision that is diverse and that is tolerant.

And if we're to lose federal funding, could it sting? Certainly. We accept that responsibility. And we're not -- but we're not going to react to a sword of Damocles over our head, hanging over our head, to bring us to our knees, to run away from humanity, from our civility, from our core values. We're not going to run away from who we are.

(CROSSTALK)

CAVUTO: What about the humanity for legal residents who are paying their taxes and then all of a sudden wanting to know why funding has been cut?

(CROSSTALK)

CURTATONE: Neil, the Constitution protects all those in our country, documented and undocumented, citizens and not citizens.

CAVUTO: I thought the Constitution protected legal Americans.

(CROSSTALK)

CURTATONE: Yes, all those people contribute. You know this. You're a business reporter.

All those people contribute to our economy. If you were to deport 11 million people, undocumented immigrants from the United States, our economy...

(CROSSTALK)

CAVUTO: I'm not saying you have to deport 11 million people.

I'm just saying, you're now saying you will stand by those who are there illegally in your community, protect them, even if it means you lose federal funding for the legal citizens in your community who benefit from that funding.

CURTATONE: Neil, I'm going to stand by everyone in my community, because we all share the same core American values.

And we're not running away from those values of who we are. And what is ironic here, that funding you're referring to goes to help the poor, the hungry, promote public safety.

What I hope we could have -- and you would help in that conversation, because you're smart, you're a business reporter -- is to put the right facts out there. What we will be hurting is not only our values, our core values as American, free, and democratic society, by also our economy.

I think we agree we want to create jobs in this country, jobs across the country. But if -- all the studies have shown, if you deport 11 million people from our borders, you will have a drastic negative impact on our economy.

(CROSSTALK)

CAVUTO: You know what? I'm just talking Somerville, Massachusetts. And I just want to be clear, Mayor, that you would say, I will fight for this, I will fight for the illegals who are here, who are protected in my sanctuary city, even if I lose funding for my city and legal residents paying taxes who are legal citizens of the United States in Somerville, Massachusetts, will just have to deal.

CURTATONE: Neil, I stand by with what I said. We're not going to run from who we are.

CAVUTO: All right.

CURTATONE: And we're not going to be bullied into vilifying one of the most vulnerable populations in our nation.

CAVUTO: All right, Mayor Joseph Curtatone, thank you for taking the time. I appreciate it.

CURTATONE: Thank you for having me.

END

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