Langley will not become a sanctuary city, and it appears the mayor will not step down.
Before a packed audience of more than 50 people, three members of the city council — Bruce Allen, Thomas Gill and Ursula Shoudy — said they would not support an ordinance that would have prohibited the usage of city funds, personnel or equipment for the enforcement of federal immigration law as proposed by Councilwomen Rene Neff and Dominique Emerson.
The ordinance was technically never put to a vote; Neff queried the council on how receptive they would be to the idea. After hearing a majority was opposed, Neff compromised by putting forth a resolution that makes a statement of inclusivity but safeguards against the much debated legal risks that are associated with being a true sanctuary city. The resolution has been sent to the city’s attorney, Mike Kenyon of Issaquah-based Kenyon Disend, to be examined.
“What I want to be able to do at the end of the day is come up with something that we can all live with and feel like our city officials, the mayor, and Dave Marks and the other police officers can enforce and feel comfortable with and not go against their oaths of office or vows,” Neff said.
Through the course of discussion by the council, it was decided that the term “sanctuary city” would be struck and that the resolution would deem Langley an “inclusive city” with “respect to immigrants and refugees and peoples of all religions, race and ethnic background, gender and sexual preference.”
Gill said the term sanctuary city should be changed because of the different connotations that the outside world had about it, which he felt were untrue about Langley and could not be supported by the community.
“We don’t have the resources,” Gill said. “An inclusive city or some other term is much more agreeable in that way, especially so we’re not running into the confusion as we’ve had since the beginning with people saying, ‘How is the city going to afford to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars to support illegal immigrants.’ ”
“As we’ve seen in other communities in this state and other states, those are the things that are going on and we don’t want to be associated with those for various different reasons,” he added.
Allen, Emerson and Neff agreed with Gill’s assessment that the “sanctuary city” term would bring with it too many negative connotations and expectations for the city, which they felt the city could not fully accommodate, such as feeding, housing and providing jobs for immigrants and refugees.
“I didn’t realize that it meant all that level of support,” Emerson said.
That wasn’t the only modification to the resolution.
Callison, who told The Record in an interview Tuesday afternoon that he would consider resigning if a sanctuary city ordinance was adopted by the council, expressed opposition to a paragraph in the resolution that would prohibit the use of city resources for the enforcement of federal immigration law.
“It is currently against the law to use this language,” Callison said. “It puts me, Debbie, you all (city council), Dave and his police force in a conflict of their oath of office.”
This assertion has been disputed by city council members of Bainbridge Island and Burien, two cities which have adopted “welcoming city” and sanctuary city ordinances.
Gill seconded Callison’s sentiments and it was decided the line would be struck from the draft resolution. Shortly after, Coupeville resident Diane Paul abruptly stood up and interjected as Neff continued the discussion.
“I’m sorry, but you are not interpreting the law correctly,” Paul said. “It does not in fact interfere with your oath of office. There are thousands of cities that have passed ordinances.”
“I encourage you to explore a little bit further. Pardon me for interrupting.”
Callison said many cities have greater resources than Langley and are more equipped to take on the challenge of going against the federal government.
Mary Kay Barbieri of the American Civil Liberties Union also lobbied for a chance to speak. As she stood up, several others in the crowd rallied behind her and urged city officials to let her talk. She managed to say the American Civil Liberties Union was willing to defend sanctuary cities, but her request to elaborate was denied. Barbieri was one of four panelists at a community sanctuary city meeting held at the Langley United Methodist Church on Feb. 10.
Another line, which read “WHEREAS, immigrants and refugees may fear for their family and friends living abroad and their ability to provide them assistance” was also struck.
“I personally, after looking over this five million times, thought that maybe wasn’t really necessary,” Neff said.
Allen agreed, saying “I don’t think that’s necessary at all. We can’t do anything about it anyway.”
Natasha Dworkin, a spokesperson for community advocacy group “Inclusive Langley,” was both encouraged and discouraged by the outcome of the meeting. Dworkin said she was disappointed the council was in favor of removing the aforementioned clause in the resolution that aimed to protect undocumented people. Dworkin also pointed out that the refugee and immigrant discussions are two different topics. She said that while a city that welcomes refugees might be expected to provide housing, jobs and other amenities, that is not at the core of the effort to protect immigrants.
Emotions also flared at the beginning of the meeting between a Langley resident and the mayor.
Peggy Taylor said it was disrespectful for Mayor Tim Callison to not attend a recent sanctuary city meeting held at the Langley United Methodist Church. Callison noted that Taylor was not the first to point out that he did not attend the meeting and responded by saying he was attending to his 92-year-old mother in Albuquerque, New Mexico, who had a heart attack and massive stroke. Callison said he also visited his father-in-law during this time as he was about to undergo an open-heart surgery.
“I’m sorry if my personal issues prevented me from attending that meeting,” Callison said. “I don’t appreciate comments that have been made about my circumstances.”
“Maybe you should inquire into the reasons about why people do things before you make public comments. Shame on you. Shame on you,” Callison added.
Many in the crowd negatively responded to Callison’s final remark and gave a collective groan. In an interview Wednesday morning, Callison volunteered an apology for his outburst with Taylor.
“She was very hostile to me and accusatory in her tone,” Callison said. “I’m sorry that it set me off.”
Callison said the city reviewed the resolution on Friday, and added that it should be examined by the city attorney in time for the city council’s next monthly meeting at 5:30 p.m. on March 6 at City Hall.