'Sanctuary city' resolution on the agenda for Tualatin City Council's next meeting

Article author: 
Mark Miller
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Article date: 
Wednesday, May 17, 2017
Article category: 
Oregon Issues
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The council heard from several residents last week who urged it to declare Tualatin a sanctuary for undocumented immigrants. The statement would be mostly a symbolic gesture.

Tualatin could become a self-declared "sanctuary city" as soon as Monday, May 22, if its City Council votes to adopt a resolution slated for discussion on the meeting agenda.

The City Council heard from two students and two staff members at Tualatin High School last Monday, May 8, who asked the council to adopt a resolution similar to those passed in Beaverton and Hillsboro earlier this year. Although receptive, with at least three councilors saying explicitly at the meeting that they are in favor of Tualatin becoming a sanctuary city, the council opted then to continue discussion at least to their next meeting.

An agenda for the council's work session, which begins at 5:30 p.m., includes an estimated 45-minute discussion of the resolution, along with other actions the city could take in a similar vein, such as "a series of listening sessions to address the need and concern of the broader community to feel safe and welcome."

The draft resolution itself is on the agenda for the council's business meeting, which starts at 7 p.m.

Draft resolution provides definition of 'sanctuary city'

It defines a "sanctuary city" as "as a city that is committed to providing a safe community for individuals, regardless of race, ethnicity, place or origin, or immigration status, and works to ensure that all members of our community are sage and can call for public safety assistance without being questioned about federal immigration laws and without fear or reprisal based solely on legal status, in accordance with current Oregon law."

Sanctuary city status in Oregon is largely symbolic, as the state has had a law on the books since 1987 prohibiting state and local law enforcement from using their resources to pursue or detain people on the sole basis of their immigration status.

However, the group that appeared at the May 8 meeting said such a declaration by the Tualatin City Council would affirm Tualatin's place as a community where immigrants can feel welcome. Activists have made similar arguments in Tigard, where the city has responded to groups asking for a sanctuary city declaration with a statement of unity read by Mayor John L. Cook at one recent meeting.

The draft resolution specifies that Tualatin's sanctuary city declaration would be made "as a statement of unity for our community."

Councilor Paul Morrison suggested at the May 8 meeting that the council could consider changing the word "sanctuary," to something else, such as "unity." He and five other council members argued against voting on a resolution at that meeting, the agenda for which did not list sanctuary cities as a discussion item.

Councilor Jeff DeHaan disagreed, saying that he saw neither a need to change the term "sanctuary city" nor a compelling reason to wait until a future meeting to hold a vote. He made a motion that the council adopt the resolution proposed by the group from Tualatin High, but the motion did not receive a second.

Resolution would not prevent ICE from making arrests

Some 17.3 percent of Tualatin residents were identified as "Hispanic or Latino" by the 2010 Census. One of Tualatin's neighborhood schools, Bridgeport Elementary School in east Tualatin, is roughly even-split between students who speak English at home and students who speak Spanish at home, and it has a dual language immersion program to encourage bilingualism in its student population.

A school counselor at Tualatin High who spoke at the May 8 council meeting said that some students have stopped regularly attending classes, staying home due to fears that members of their family could be arrested for being in the United States without legal documentation.

President Donald Trump was elected last November on a campaign platform that included taking a tougher line on illegal immigration. Trump has said he wants to deport millions of undocumented immigrants. Since his inauguration in January, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement has stepped up its activity, reportedly arresting dozens in the Portland area alone.

Mayor Lou Ogden cautioned at the May 8 meeting that even if Tualatin declares itself a sanctuary city, it cannot stop ICE from operating in the city. Furthermore, state law does allow law enforcement agencies to exchange information with federal authorities in order to verify arrested suspects' immigration status.

The Tualatin City Council work session and meeting at which the resolution is expected to be discussed will be held at the Juanita Pohl Center, 8513 S.W. Tualatin Road.

The May 8 meeting was held at the Tualatin Police Department, not the usual venue for council meetings, due to a budget advisory committee meeting there that immediately preceded it.

FILE - Tualatin City Councilor Jeff DeHaan moved unsuccessfully for the council to approve a resolution declaring Tualatin a sanctuary city at its May 8 meeting.