A resolution declaring Astoria a “city of inclusivity with respect to immigrants and refugees” came before the City Council Tuesday.
Introduced by Jorge Gutierrez, the executive director of the Lower Columbia Hispanic Council, on behalf of the city’s Hispanic and immigrant community, the resolution is a response to President Donald Trump’s hard-line immigration policies, including the Republican’s push for mass deportations of undocumented immigrants.
“Our immigrant community has expressed fear and concern about what is happening at the local, state and national level,” Gutierrez said, “and we believe that now is the time to explore the possibility of an inclusivity resolution.”
The resolution — drafted by attorneys from the American Civil Liberties Union and Causa, a group that advocates for immigrants’ rights — does not make Astoria a sanctuary city, however.
In December, Mayor Arline LaMear, while declaring her support the local Hispanic community, said the city would likely not pursue sanctuary city status. Gutierrez had told LaMear that designating Astoria a sanctuary city could have a polarizing effect.
“Instead, we are asking for a resolution that affirms the progressive values of our city, and that recognizes that our immigrant population is vital to our community and to our local economy,” Gutierrez said. “Most importantly, in the face of the continued rhetoric that is attempting to dehumanize this population, an inclusivity resolution sends a clear message to our Hispanic community that we stand with them, that they are our friends, our family and our neighbors.”
A similar resolution has been enacted in several other Oregon cities.
The City Council showed strong support for the resolution, which will be reworked with guidance from City Attorney Blair Henningsgaard and Police Chief Brad Johnston.
“On behalf of the Hispanic community, we thank you for your continued support and for your consideration of this request,” Gutierrez said. “We are confident that we live in a city that opposes any form of discrimination, including that which is based on national origin, race or ethnicity. We know that the city will take the right steps to ensure that everyone, including our immigrant community feels welcomed and supported in our city.”
The council will vote on the resolution at the next meeting.
“Astoria was built by immigrants, and I stand by the immigrant and Hispanic community in Astoria,” City Councilor Zetty Nemlowill said.
The resolution declares that “the use of city funds, personnel or equipment for the enforcement of federal immigration law is prohibited,” and “the provision of services or benefits by the city shall not be conditions upon a resident’s federal immigration status, except as required by federal or state law.” Johnston explained that the clauses prohibit actions the city doesn’t engage in anyway.
After council discussion, Mayor LaMear began, “We don’t usually encourage applause in this place, but …”
She was quickly drowned out by a roomful of applause — much of it coming from members of the Hispanic community.