Pendleton City Council declines sanctuary city status

Article author: 
Antonio Sierra
Article publisher: 
East Oregonian
Article date: 
Tuesday, April 18, 2017
Article category: 
Oregon Issues
Article Body: 

The City Council took no action on the mostly symbolic measure of making Pendleton a sanctuary city.

At a Tuesday meeting, city resident Shaindel Beers asked the council to declare Pendleton a sanctuary city by adopting an American Civil Liberties Union-endorsed list of nine policies and rules that limited local police cooperation with federal immigration enforcement.

Beers’ request only drew public support from city councilor Scott Fairley, whose motion to adopt the policies died from a lack of a second.

In her presentation, Beers said that although Oregon is already considered a “sanctuary state,” adopting the ACLU’s policies and rules would send a message to undocumented immigrants that Pendleton was a safe and inclusive place.

“A scared population isn’t a safe population,” she said. “If we can make people feel safe and included we would be a better community and a community that people would be proud to be a part of.”

Beers, an English instructor at Blue Mountain Community College, said BMCC already had “safe spaces” on campus, although she was unaware if any other cities in Eastern Oregon had adopted the ACLU’s list.

Thanks to state law, police chief Stuart Roberts told the council that the city was already practicing many of the policies and rules listed by the ACLU.

Roberts said the exception was a rule that required immigration enforcement agents to always wear duty jackets and make their badges visible at all times while in city facilities.

He added that officers don’t usually detain suspects in the police department and rarely come into contact with immigration enforcement.

Roberts said adopting the ACLU policies wouldn’t affect how Pendleton police conduct business or the department’s budget, meaning he didn’t have a strong opinion on the list one way or the other.

Councilor John Brenne worried that President Donald Trump’s threats to strip federal funding from sanctuary cities would hurt Pendleton.

Both Roberts and city attorney Nancy Kerns were unsure if the Trump administration would legally be able to level punitive measures against sanctuary cities.

Sometimes the council’s deliberations resembled glass half-empty or glass half-full argument. While Fairley thought there was no downside to adopting the ACLU policies, councilor Neil Brown saw no upside.

Ultimately, Beers’ request couldn’t find enough supporters on the council besides Fairley and the council took no action.