Tigard to consider 'welcoming community' resolution
After issuing a "statement of unity" earlier this year, the Tigard City Council is poised to consider adopting a resolution Tuesday evening, Nov. 28, declaring the suburban city a "welcoming community … where every person feels safe, regardless of immigration status."
Pro-immigration activists rallied outside Tigard City Hall before an April 25 council meeting. At that meeting, after a lengthy public comment period, Mayor John L. Cook read a statement expressing Tigard's commitment to the equal treatment of its residents and affirming the city has no role in immigration or deportation issues.
The statement fell short of the demands of activists — some of them from Tigard, others from outside the city — that Tigard declare itself a "sanctuary city," as neighboring Beaverton and Portland had recently done, but it appeared to ward off further protests after sanctuary supporters had showed up in strength at two council meetings.
Tigard could back that statement up Tuesday if the council votes to adopt the proposed "welcoming" resolution.
The draft resolution states in part, "We stand together, united against prejudice, fear, ignorance and hate and will work to bring our community together to maintain a welcoming environment where every person feels safe, regardless of immigration status."
An Oregon law on the books since 1987 means "sanctuary city" and similar proclamations within the state are more symbolic than practical. Oregon is sometimes referred to as a "sanctuary state" because of the law, which prohibits state and local law enforcement agencies from using public resources to legally pursue people because they are in the United States illegally. The law does not prevent federal immigration authorities from operating in Oregon.
Self-declared sanctuary cities have been around for some time, but new life was breathed into the nationwide movement by the election of Donald Trump as president last November.
Trump ran on a campaign promising to "get tough" on illegal immigration. Since being elected, he has repeatedly attempted to ban travel to the United States by nationals of several countries, mostly Muslim-majority countries in the Middle East and Africa, by executive order. The Trump administration has also dramatically pared back refugee admissions.
People who addressed the Tigard City Council or spoke with The Times about their experience in the immigrant community at council meetings earlier this year said there is considerable fear since the election that those who came to the United States without legal documentation could be arrested and deported.
Under previous administrations, undocumented immigrants were not typically considered a top priority for deportation unless they had committed a serious felony or were repeat offenders. However, federal agents have carried out several sweeps in Oregon and elsewhere since President Trump took office, with some of the arrested having no or little criminal record. One September sweep explicitly focused on "sanctuary jurisdictions," according to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials.
An ICE spokeswoman quoted by TIME magazine this summer said that "since the change in administration, our director has said there are not going to be any classes or categories of removable aliens that are exempt."
Beaverton, Hillsboro and Portland are among local cities that declared themselves sanctuaries over the past year.
Tualatin also felt the pressure from activists and residents who asked the city to take a stance in support of undocumented immigrants this year, with a group from Tualatin High School first approaching the council at a meeting held at the city's police station.
At a packed public meeting in May, the Tualatin City Council adopted a resolution declaring Tualatin an "inclusive city." Like the "welcoming" language proposed in Tigard, the designation neatly sidestepped the politically polarizing "sanctuary" language while meeting with broad approval from the audience.
More than one Tualatin city councilor had previously expressed a preference to declare Tualatin a sanctuary city, following the high school group's presentation. But the council voted unanimously to adopt the "inclusive" resolution, which Mayor Lou Ogden and Council President Joelle Davis agreed at a work session would likely engender less controversy.