Despite a report that Hallowell is considering becoming a sanctuary city, that’s not the case.

And Gardiner, which also was identified Tuesday in an emailed call to action by the Maine Republican Party as a “potential sanctuary city,” is not considering that status either.

Elected officials in both cities have said in recent days that they want to be welcoming places for immigrants and refugees in the wake of an executive order issued Friday by President Donald Trump that temporarily bans travel from seven Muslim-majority countries, even by those people who had secured permission to enter the United States.

On Saturday, Gardiner elected officials met for their annual goal setting session, and one of their announced goals was making Gardiner a welcoming city to senior citizens, families and immigrants, who are sometimes referred to as “new Mainers.”

During that four-hour meeting, no one talked about establishing a sanctuary city.

“Gardiner has an interest in growing the population,” Gardiner Mayor Thom Harnett said Monday.


On Sunday, Rep. Charlotte Warren, D-Hallowell, floated the idea on Facebook of creating a “sanctuary,” but on Tuesday she said that wasn’t her intent.

Warren’s post to her constituents said she has “reached out to Hallowell Mayor Mark Walker and requested that our beautiful, loving city become a ‘Sanctuary City’ — a community welcoming of everyone — in defiance of President Trump.”

“My intention is to reaffirm the values of Hallowell,” she said in a Tuesday interview.

Warren said she began working on the draft of a resolution Sunday night with several constituents. On Monday, she contacted Walker by email, asking for the resolution be approved by the City Council at its next meeting, on Feb. 13.

“It’s not an ordinance, policy or law,” she said. “It’s a resolution, which is a statement of values. The values of our city is to be welcoming of everyone.”

On Tuesday, the Maine Republican Party’s executive director sent out an email urging people to contact elected officials representing Gardiner and Hallowell to tell them to halt their efforts to become sanctuary cities.


“This is a purely political move, a symbolic act against the president’s executive orders this past week,” Jason Savage wrote in an email with “Potential Sanctuary Cities” as the subject line. “Sadly, if they follow through with these wishes, it can have very real effects on the people who currently live in these municipalities.”

In the email, Savage included home telephone numbers of Harnett and the members of the Gardiner City Council as well as of Walker and the members of the Hallowell City Council.

“Our concern,” Savage said, “is these municipalities are deliberately putting themselves at odds with immigration laws.”

That puts property taxpayers in a bad place because it would jeopardize federal funds to those communities, he said. If Gardiner and Hallowell residents want to defy immigration law, he said, those cities are setting up their residents to foot the bill.

A sanctuary city is a term without a specific legal definition.

“It’s not entirely clear what it means,” said Mark Brewer, a professor of political science at the University of Maine.


On Tuesday, a draft of an executive order indicates further bans are being considered on immigrants that would halt immigration by people who would require public assistance once they get here and to deport, where possible, those already living in the United States and receiving public assistance.

Generally, Brewer said, a sanctuary city is one that has moved, either by formal policy or informal practice, to shelter immigrants from certain federal immigration policies.

“As a candidate, Trump said he would crack down on sanctuary cities,” Brewer said. “His supporters see this as a simple demand to follow the law of the land. Opponents think it’s discriminatory and nativistic, and they are doing the humanitarian thing.”

Several U.S. cities have declared themselves to be sanctuary cities. They include Chicago, New York, San Francisco and Seattle.

Brewer said no city in Maine has identified itself that way.

“Gov. Le Page has labeled Portland a sanctuary city and says they are refusing to enforce federal immigration law,” he said.


Portland Mayor Ethan Strimling has said the city is not a sanctuary and is not refusing to enforce the law.

Savage disputed that, saying that Portland falls into a gray area.

In Gardiner, the city’s demographics, as well as the state’s, show a population that’s aging. And Gardiner is in competition with other communities in attracting residents who want to relocate.

“There is great benefit in presenting a community as it is, which is loving and welcoming,” Harnett said.

It’s also not a new position. Starting in 2012, city officials, the Gardiner Board of Trade and Gardiner Maine Street embarked on Gardiner’s Heart & Soul in collaboration with the Orton Family Foundation to identify community values that matter most to the people who live there. Among those values is presenting Gardiner as a community that’s friendly to families.

One of the population groups that’s increasing in Maine is the immigrant population.


“Some are refugees; some are asylum seekers,” he said. “After a legal process, they have come to Maine.”

A number of them are now employed by two companies in Gardiner.

“It’s terribly disingenuous for any community to say we love jobs, but please don’t live here,” he said. “What I want to do is to be actively engaged in talking to the people who are working in Gardiner about living in Gardiner.”

Increasing the city’s population does two things, he said — expands the tax base and enriches its diversity.

And if legal immigrants choose to live and work in Gardiner, he said, he wants to make sure that Gardiner wants to put out the welcome mat.

“We would want them to know you will be safe, welcome and respected here,” he said.


Warren said Tuesday she’s seen the response from the Republican Party, but that didn’t influence her opting to promote Hallowell as a welcoming rather than sanctuary city.

Savage said he’s heard rumors and speculation about other cities that might be considering whether to declare themselves sanctuaries.

In Waterville, City Manager Mike Roy said Tuesday he hasn’t heard any discussion about that city considering any action or statement regarding immigration sanctuary. And in Augusta, City Manager William Bridgeo said there has not been discussion of creating a sanctuary city.

Staff writers Jason Pafundi and Amy Calder contributed to this report.

Jessica Lowell — 621-5632

Twitter: @JLowellKJ

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