Sanctuary supporters

To the Editor:

I have been a resident of Bar Harbor for a little over three years. My partner and I chose to come to Maine when Arizona became too unsafe for us.

We researched communities’ crime rates, documented hate crimes, elected officials, neighborhoods, variety of businesses, sustainably minded, number and quality of arrests, quality of nearby colleges and universities and were drawn to Bar Harbor for all of these reasons.

I am the granddaughter of undocumented immigrants. My abuela’s proudest accomplishment was that all 14 of her children graduated high school. If you are familiar with United States history, then you may know that the border crossed my family before they had a chance to cross it. Because of communities like Bar Harbor, my family was able to survive and thrive.

While living on MDI, I have seen incredible kindness, honesty and decency. I have taken my time getting to know this very special place, working with a variety of small businesses, cleaning vacation rentals, substituting in the high school and at Connors Emerson, freelancing in the nonprofit sector and finding my place as an artist. My partner recently experienced a major health crisis that was very unexpected, and this community reached out and caught us.

This is a community where it is safe to walk on the streets at night. It is safe to leave your car running in the Hannaford parking lot, though not environmentally responsible.

Here, it is safe for kids to walk home from school. If you get stuck in the snow, someone will stop and check on you. They might not think you are very smart, but they will help you.

Some might argue that this safety comes from police security measures like stop and frisk, shoot to kill and character profiling. I would argue the opposite. I would say that the reason Bar Harbor is so safe is because here, we take responsibility for knowing our neighbors.

Bar Harbor’s safety as a community comes from the mutual responsibility that we share as town members. This was evident at the town meeting on June 6. It was stunning to see so many people attend and hear arguments from all sides of this issue. It is clear our common ground is caring for this town.

When citizens act with vested interest in their community, like in Bar Harbor, then the law has the space to function in a fair and impartial manner. We teach this in our schools, and we expect this of our fellow community members. It ensures our mutual freedom.

I am no stranger to discrimination, being made a suspect, fearing for my safety. I have lived in a place that criminalized me because of my culture, my gender and the person I love. I watched the distrust grow within that community, the rise of news reports on suspicious and unnecessary arrests, the elementary schools disrupted by police raids and the reports of overflowing jails. I also watched the budget cuts that came to public health and education funding as the price tag for these heavy-handed security measures continued rising.

Right now, we have a police force that is dedicated to the critical and individual assessment of each and every case and person they work with. As a community, the best thing we can do is raise our police force up and hold them to a high standard of assessment. We also can hold ourselves to a high standard of assessment. I don’t want to think that violent people are going free because they don’t fit the profile of a criminal. I want to know we have a police force that is able to evaluate the safety of our entire community.

Choosing to make Bar Harbor a sanctuary community is important because it holds us to a higher standard of assessment. It is important because it is another step in ensuring our mutual freedom and safety. Thank you, Bar Harbor, for continuing to be a safe and free place to live. It is a true joy to be here.

Angela Soliz

Bar Harbor

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