A host of South Whidbey residents lobbied the city council on Monday to make Langley a sanctuary city.
Over 50 people, some of whom were forced to stand due from lack of seating, crowded into Langley City Hall’s council chambers to support the idea that was first brought to the city council by two Langley residents at a Nov. 28 meeting.
The topic was not on the agenda for the Dec. 19 meeting, therefore the city council did not discuss it or make a formal decision. Residents instead utilized the public comment period to advocate that the city take a proactive action that would make a statement about all-inclusiveness during the public comment period.
“The more cities that do this, the safer it’s going to be for any people of color really,” said Langley resident Peggy Taylor. “It particularly affects the Latino people and the people from south of our borders. I think this is a small act that can have a huge impact. I would be very proud of us to do this.”
It will likely be on the agenda for the city council’s next meeting at 5:30 p.m. on Tuesday, Jan. 3, Mayor Tim Callison said. Based on Monday night’s attendance, Callison said the meeting may be held at Langley Methodist Church to accommodate a large crowd.
If Langley becomes a sanctuary city, it would not “cooperate with other authorities around the issue of immigration or immigration status,” Callison said.
“That’s really the heart of the sanctuary city movement,” Callison said at the meeting. “They don’t help federal authorities in their issues around illegal immigration status.”
Rose Homme, a Clinton resident, said that people should not be under the illusion that “because we’re in this beautiful small town, ugly things can’t happen.”
“We need to commit ourselves that we will protect our community members and that we will not participate in the things that we look back in history as deplorable,” Homme said.
Sumer Eberhart, a Bayview resident, also spoke in favor of becoming a sanctuary city.
“Langley is a city full of immigrants one way or another, unless you have indigenous blood from here,” Eberhart said. “I think it’s a matter of offering what was offered to everyone else’s ancestors and setting a precedent for saying that at least this area right here does not give permission for this type of behavior.”
Commenters also mentioned the possible repercussions of President-elect Donald Trump’s promises during his campaign to deport millions of illegal immigrants. Langley resident Belinda Griswold said that by doing nothing, the city may be vulnerable to becoming a mechanism for unjust laws that could be implemented by the government.
She also said that becoming a sanctuary city would uphold Langley’s values, compassion, equality and solidarity.
“It’s the right thing to do because it basically says we won’t do the federal government’s dirty work,” said Griswold. “Unfortunately, today and going forward, there may be a lot of dirty work being done, so let’s not do it for them.”
Callison said in an interview Tuesday morning that in his personal opinion, becoming a sanctuary city has symbolic value. He added, however, that the action is somewhat of a moot point because the city and police department already do not inquire about the immigration status of residents or visitors. Callison said he understands where those in favor of the idea are coming from, but still feels that Langley is ahead of the curve in terms of all-inclusiveness.
“People want a large statement,” Callison said. “They want something bigger and more in line with what other cities are doing. Langley was already far ahead in terms of codifying with the way we treat people with dignity and humanity.”