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Monday, April 6, 2020

Frontline: Sanctuary city designation in Bellingham vital

By Anna Edlund

 

Opinions of the Editorial Board

 

Immigration has always been a hot button issue. This week, it got a hell of a lot hotter.

During the past week, President Donald Trump released an executive order severely limiting immigration from seven predominantly Muslim countries. While in turn, suspending refugee admission to the U.S. These are the first on the massive list of promises he gave on the campaign trail regarding immigration.

An outpouring of dissent and open rebellion is occurring. Immigrants in the U.S. are expressing fear over the rhetoric from the Trump administration.The country is responding with protests stretching from sea to sea. Citizens, lawyers and even entire cities are standing up. That is what matters today.

Sanctuary cities are in open defiance of Trump’s administration, which is calling for cuts to federal funding for cities and jurisdictions that list themselves as sanctuary cities. These are areas that protect undocumented individuals by not prosecuting them for violating immigration laws.

Whatcom County is considered a sanctuary county by the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement. The ICE lists sanctuary counties as an area that will not honor ICE detainers. The American Civil Liberties Union defines an ICE detainer as a written request that law enforcement detain an individual past release date in order to provide ICE agents time to decide whether to take the individual into custody.

But Bellingham is not.

Outcry against this is nothing new. Western’s Blue Group, a group for undocumented students, petitioned Bellingham City Council for creating Bellingham as a sanctuary city last November, without resolution.

The rest of our state is not standing by idly.

Seattle is a long-time sanctuary city. Seattle Mayor, Ed Murray, has been insistent the city will remain a safe place for immigrants, regardless of legal documentation or status.

Not to mention Washington Attorney General, Bob Ferguson, making Washington the first state to sue President Trump over his immigration policies.

Bellingham has been silent.

We cannot and should not rely on having a blanket protection for undocumented immigrants in the county and Seattle to the south. Creating a ordinance or definable documentation is a direct slap in the face to our new administration’s ridiculous promises. If we want to claim we support and protect undocumented individuals, we must do it both nominally and in practice. We are a city of 80,000; yes, a fraction of the size of cities like Seattle. But 80,000 is all that matters for anyone who lives here. And how oh-so satisfying is it to use the power we are given as citizens to make a difference.

As citizens we still have our voices. Believing your government will hear your voice becomes difficult in times like these, when it feels like civic engagement is as useful as yelling at a brick wall. But there is power locally. Use your voice for people who cannot.

Show up. Physically show up at city council meetings. Call in to Mayor Kelli Linville. Find your representative’s phone numbers and don’t stop calling until you get a response. These actions do not go unnoticed. Involvement may seem like an easy solution to a convoluted problem, but it is the best tool in our arsenals right now. Movements start locally then grow. So start in Bellingham.

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