Sanctuary Law Tabled Until "Community Has Healed"

Sanctuary law tabled until community has healed
Council says legislation divided residents

by Maya T. Prabhu
Staff Writer
Thursday, Feb. 21, 2008

Following two months of discussion, two public hearings and more than 40 area-resident testimonies, the Mount Rainier City Council voted Tuesday to table a resolution that would make the city a sanctuary for illegal immigrants until the community has healed.

Had the motion been voted on, it would have passed 3-2. No date has been set to revisit the legislation.

Of the residents and members of other surrounding communities that spoke, Councilman Pedro Briones (Ward 2), who introduced the resolution, noted there had been overwhelming support for creating the sanctuary.

More than 75 percent of the people who spoke last week supported the resolution, he said.

But despite the resident support, at Councilman Bryan Knedlers (Ward 2) request and Mayor Malinda Miles suggestion, the council voted 3-2 to table the ordinance that would have prohibited city officials from enforcing or cooperating in the enforcement of federal immigration laws or inquiring about an individuals immigration status.

I would like that this bill not be voted up or down, but tabled, Miles said at a special council meeting. Residents have asked me, Whats the rush to pass the legislation?

Knedler, who said he has been against the resolution since it was introduced, said the resolution divided the city and defeated the intent of creating an immigrant sanctuary.

[The intent is to] make immigrants aware they are welcome but the debate has caused a rift in the community, he said, adding passing the resolution with such a divided community would not be sincere. We need to step back and work on making our community better before making a hollow declaration.

Briones said fellow council members who voted to table the resolution have taken the easy way out.

This council pays a lot of meaningless lip-service to wanting to include our growing Latino communities in our city processes, yet when it comes to considering real measures that are shown to improve relations with immigrant communities…this council ducks the issue, he said Wednesday. Instead of doing their jobs and actually voting, even on the difficult issues, theyd rather just vote on the easy issues and duck the hard ones. Ive lost a lot of respect for my colleagues. They took the cheap, cowardly way out.

Had the vote been taken, it would have passed with the support of Briones, Councilman Jimmy Tarlau (Ward 1) and Councilwoman Alta Morton (Ward 1), who said she had been the fence-sitter on the issue. But when Knedler made the motion to table the resolution, Morton sided with him and Miles.

When Tarlau asked Knedler how long he wanted the resolution to be tabled, Knedler said until the community has healed, though he said he believes it is up to the people who supported the resolution to take those steps. Knedler said he did not know what could be done.

Mount Rainier resident Joe Robbins, who spoke in support of the resolution at the council meeting Tuesday, said the vote being so close shows the community as a whole does not agree or disagree with the resolution.

[It] seems that tabling the resolution, a parliamentary-type procedure, places the resolution on hold until further notice. It strikes me as a middle-of-the-ground maneuver, both approving the resolution but at the same time not codifying it for enactment at the local city level, he said. At least those around us know that we are trying to act in the best interest of our community, our nation and our planet [with] a welcoming attitude that accepts you for who you are, not as we think you should be.

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