Tigard City Council declares city to be 'welcoming'
Tigard is a "welcoming" city, the Tigard City Council declared Tuesday, Nov. 28, as it adopted a resolution affirming the city's stance on diversity and immigration issues.
The council voted 4-1 in favor of the resolution. The issue came back before the council months after two council meetings at which dozens of activists showed up to decry federal action against people living in the United States without legal documentation and call upon Tigard to declare itself a "sanctuary city."
The resolution does not use the "sanctuary" language, but it 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."
Councilor Marc Woodard was the only dissenter on the vote. He argued that the issue was too "divisive" to be addressed with a resolution and said he is concerned about the "risk" to the city.
"It actually creates more divisiveness and politically charges the environment even after it's done," Woodard said, arguing the resolution will be "interpreted as 'sanctuary.'"
Members of the public who spoke on the resolution Tuesday evening were all supportive, thanking city officials for drafting it and meeting people in the Tigard community with concerns.
"A group of Tigard residents has met on several occasions to try to communicate that there's a lot of fear in our community," said Gloria Pinzon. "There's a lot of people experiencing hardship. And while we understand that the City Council cannot fix some of those problems, we think that this is a great step … and a building block toward building a more inclusive and united city that will continue to move us toward taking actions, like encouraging victims of crimes to report them regardless of their immigration status, and also encouraging more folks to participate in government. That's something that I think is really important."
Mariana Garcia, who was brought to the United States without legal documentation as a child and said she is enrolled in the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, told the council she is very proud to live in Tigard and loves the United States. She said that by adopting the resolution, the city is "taking a stand" with members of the immigrant community.
City Council President Jason Snider called the resolution "something that nobody loves but everybody can live with." It was crafted based on a "statement of unity" that Tigard published in April, he said, with some changes incorporated through dialogue with city residents.
But Woodard predicted the "welcoming" resolution will not satisfy either side, saying, "The decision that we make tonight, it's not going to be done." He argued the council was "playing with fire" by adopting a resolution that not all residents would support.
Self-declared sanctuary jurisdictions have become an object of ire among immigration hardliners in Washington, D.C., and elsewhere.
In September, a sweep called "Operation Safe City" was conducted by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents in several sanctuary cities and counties.
"Sanctuary jurisdictions that do not honor detainers or allow us access to jails and prisons are shielding criminal aliens from immigration enforcement and creating a magnet for illegal immigration," said ICE Acting Director Tom Homan in a statement that month announcing the results of Operation Safe City. "As a result, ICE is forced to dedicate more resources to conduct at-large arrests in these communities."
President Donald Trump and Attorney General Jeff Sessions have also attempted to cut off federal funding to local and state governments that do not work with federal immigration authorities. Federal courts have blocked those efforts for now.
Even still, Woodard said repeatedly he believes Tigard risks losing federal funding over the resolution.
Declarations like Tigard's "welcoming" resolution, an "inclusive city" resolution adopted by Tualatin in May, and "sanctuary" designations adopted by other local cities like Beaverton, Hillsboro and Portland are largely symbolic gestures. That's because Oregon has had a law on the books since 1987 barring local and state law enforcement agencies from using public resources to pursue people for the sole reason that they broke federal immigration laws.
Tigard's resolution notes that "the city does not get involved with immigration and deportation issues of residents who are in the United States without authorization, except as required by law."
Police Chief Kathy McAlpine said her officers do not ask about immigration status, and police reports in Tigard do not record immigration information.
Oregon law does allow local and state law enforcement agencies to exchange certain information with federal immigration authorities and arrest any person with a federal warrant for their arrest for violating immigration laws, but since a 2014 lawsuit, county jails in the state do not honor ICE detainer requests.
"Oregon jails do not honor requests by ICE to detain persons past their local release date, because doing so is a violation of the person's rights and subjects the jail to serious civil liability," stated Washington County Sheriff Pat Garrett earlier this year, responding on behalf of the Oregon State Sheriffs' Association to an executive order issued by President Trump in January.