Langley Mayor Tim Callison confirmed Tuesday that he may resign if the city council approves a sanctuary city ordinance.
“It’s one possible outcome, certainly,” he said, when asked by a Record reporter just hours before the issue was scheduled to go before the council.
News that he was thinking about stepping down if an ordinance was approved was first revealed in an email Robin Black, Callison’s wife and former council member, sent to city council on Monday. While Callison has declined in the past to reveal his position, Black wrote that he was weighing such a step.
“I know Tim is considering stepping down if a resolution/ordinance is passed that puts him in violation of his oath,” Black wrote. “I certainly won’t volunteer my time for a group of people that believe in fear mongering and coercion. I personally would be afraid of the type of person that would be elected that either doesn’t care if they break their oath – or worse yet, they believe they can pick and choose the laws to uphold. One small detail to remember, not too long ago, we put a mayor in jail for violation of oath of office.”
Callison said in an interview after The Record’s press deadline that he would not support a sanctuary city ordinance for fear of violating his oath of office.
“If by nature you’re creating an ordinance that is defiant of federal law, then I’m violating my oath aren’t I?” Callison said. “…The section in there (the ordinance) that says we will not use city funds for the purpose of cooperation with federal officials I believe is against the law.”
Langley City Councilwomen Rene Neff and Dominique Emerson confirmed in phone interviews Friday afternoon that they would propose an ordinance that would declare Langley a sanctuary city at tonight’s city council meeting.
“It’s my feeling that this is strong and clear enough and very specific,” Neff said. “It hits most of the ideas that everybody else has stated. We don’t have a large population of people. I tried to tailor it more to us. I think it will make a statement and to me that’s part of the point of introducing something like this.”
But, city council members Thomas Gill and Bruce Allen have stated that they are not in favor of an ordinance. Shoudy has not yet shared her personal opinion with The Record on the subject.
City Councilwoman Ursula Shoudy’s position is unknown. Repeated attempts to reach her Tuesday morning were unsuccessful.
Callison’s silence put him under fire from sanctuary city advocates, including at least one on the council. Emerson said Friday afternoon she was convinced he’s against the proposal because “it may ask him to break the law and it’s not supporting our police department,” Emerson said.
She also charged the mayor with letting his personal opinion influence the way he handles the situation.
“Our fearless leader is so opposed to being a sanctuary city that he is the one that is providing arguments against it,” Emerson said. “I hate disagreeing with the mayor. For me personally, I want to be a team player. This is very hard for me. I respect Tim and his opinion and I want to be part of his team, I do.”
The Record has received several emails from Callison that cited current federal laws on immigration. One such reference is the 1996 Immigration Reform and Immigration Responsibility Act and U.S. Code 1373 regarding the communication between government agencies and the Immigration and Naturalization Service. The code instructs local government officials to not prohibit the flow of information regarding the “citizenship” or “immigration status” from reaching the Immigration and Naturalization Service.
Responding to Emerson’s comments, Callison said he believes it’s not his place as mayor to share his personal opinion with the council. He added that he’s open to speaking with the public privately but is reluctant to share his views in the newspaper.
Emerson also said that in an email, Callison expressed his disappointment that three city council members attended a recent community sanctuary city meeting at the Langley United Methodist Church, thus creating an illegal meeting. He asked the city’s ethics committee to review the incident and warned the council that a violation could result in a $500 fine under state stature. Emerson said the council members in attendance — Allen, Ursula Shoudy and Rene Neff — were not aware of who was going to attend and that no city business was discussed.
“It’s pretty heavy handed,” Emerson said. “The way the email is phrased is very untrusting of the people that were at the meeting.”
City Clerk and Treasurer Debbie Mahler said she was not aware of the fine, or a threat of one, when questioned by a Record reporter.
Gill and Allen have both sounded off in opposition. Gill, who is currently hospitalized due to health issues, told The Record in an email that he could not support an ordinance.
“In my research there are too many legal and constitutional questions about codifying our beliefs in an ordinance,” Gill wrote. “Too many varying opinions that use the same information for opposite arguments. I’m also not willing to put our police force in legal or physical jeopardy, period. We already have a strong policy and I want to keep it that way. Also, if the worst case scenario comes to fruition, no ordinance, will stop it.”
Allen has made it adamantly clear that he does not support Langley declaring sanctuary city status as he feels the city already acts as one in practice.
“I’m very committed to getting this over with,” Allen said. “I’m tired of it. We’ve had this on the agenda and it’s not getting it done. It’s wasting our time.”
Allen said he anticipates the ordinance will be unneeded, as he is doubtful that an immigration official will ever come to Langley. Allen also said the federal government’s power is limited and that officials cannot reallocate police resources.
“They can blow all the smoke they want — they can’t do anything,” Allen said.
Emerson said if the ordinance was passed, police would still be expected to arrest anyone who is breaking the law.
Neff said passing an ordinance would go a long ways toward ensuring the comfort of families who are fearful of being taken away by immigration officials.