A commissioner’s proposal that Boynton Beach become a sanctuary city sparked deep-rooted response among residents — some have called for her resignation, while other supporters have labeled an outspoken opponent a white supremacist.
The turmoil is unraveling even though the issue is moot. The City Commission rejected Commissioner Christina Romelus’ idea to name Boynton a sanctuary city. Such a designation would mean the city wouldn’t cooperate with federal immigration authorities in deporting undocumented immigrants or those under temporary protected status.
“Having differing opinions and working through those to reach a common goal is how this country was founded,” Romelus, a native of Haiti, told The Palm Beach Post. “Asking for my resignation simply because I had the audacity to bring up a controversial issue is testament to this day and age in which we live. I think it is sad.”
Romelus posted on her Facebook page on Friday that she received an e-mail from resident Andy Shinn asking her to resign. Shinn told the commissioner she caused anger and brought tension to the community and plans to write a letter to the city requesting she be investigated and removed.
A handful of residents have said at the Dec. 5 commission meeting, through social media or email that they want Romelus to resign or want to vote her out. One resident even said she should be impeached.
The commissioner posted that in the Trump era “even daring to bring up a discussion” about illegal immigrants is grounds for impeachment.
She said Monday that while she respects her opponents’ opinions, the “grotesque behavior” of those who have been “spewing blind hatred at me for wanting to have a discussion about this issue is alarming and merits attention.”
Romelus said she has no plans of resigning.
Neither does Cindy Falco-DiCorrado, a member of a city advisory board on redevelopment who has also called for Romelus to resign.
Resident Mathi Mulligan said Falco-DiCorrado told him personally at the Dec. 5 meeting to speak “better English,” and allegedy told black residents “you’re lucky we brought you over as slaves or else you’d be deported too.”
But Falco-DiCorrado said she was misunderstood. She said she has an adopted son who speaks in a Spanish accent and a husband who speaks in an Italian accent and tells them to speak better English.
Falco-DiCorrado said she doesn’t recall exactly what she said regarding slavery, but meant it in the best of terms that “out of hardships you can rebuild again and there are blessings.”
She said she’s willing to meet with whomever she has offended one-on-one to end what she has described as a “lynch mob.” She said she’s been harassed through emails and is starting to feel threatened.
Resident Adam Wasserman, who supported Romelus’ idea of a sanctuary city, said after the meeting he wants Falco-DiCorrado removed from the Community Redevelopment Agency advisory board.
“The CRA makes development policy that directly impacts poor communities of color,” Wasserman said in a news statement. “We found out she was a board member and decided to do something. Somebody who is a clear racist should not be in this position of power.”
Mulligan added: “We will keep pressing on until the city commission fires this white supremacist from a job that gives her direct power over the lives of people of color.”
Like Romelus, Falco-DiCorrado said she isn’t going anywhere. The commission has the power to remove her from her position.
Romelus declined to say whether she thinks Falco-DiCorrado should be removed, but said, “there are some serious allegations that have been brought forward and I’m looking forward to bringing the truth to light.”
Falco-DiCorrado remains steadfast in her position the commissioner must resign: “She doesn’t seem to listen to a lot of us when we do communicate with her.”
Boynton isn’t the only city in Palm Beach County to face the controversial topic.
West Palm Beach passed a resolution in March that declared the city a “Welcoming City.” The declaration means employees will not help federal law enforcers round up immigrants for deportation unless specifically required to by state or federal law, or by court order.
Palm Beach County in October signed on to cooperate with the Trump administration in its efforts to combat illegal immigration. Palm Beach County Sheriff Ric Bradshaw told county officials that it’d give PBSO a better shot at federal grant money and the deputies won’t have to do anything more than they are already doing.
Boynton’s Mayor Steven Grant said he wants to follow the county’s example, almost ensuring the issue won’t go away anytime soon.
The commission will meet Tuesday as the CRA board.
The topic spilled over nastily on a community Facebook group where the conversation devolved into personal attacks.
Michael Wilson, one of the group’s administrators, said they muted two members and deleted some comments.
Administrators of the page also later closed the ability for anyone to comment further because the officials had already made their decision and some still wanted to “duke it out.”