Port Townsend officially a ‘welcoming city’

Chris Tucker, ctucker@ptleader.com
Posted 3/28/17

With a 7-0 vote Monday night, the city of Port Townsend is officially a “welcoming city” for immigrants.

“I see us as standing up for the Constitution with this action,” said City Council …

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Port Townsend officially a ‘welcoming city’

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With a 7-0 vote Monday night, the city of Port Townsend is officially a “welcoming city” for immigrants.

“I see us as standing up for the Constitution with this action,” said City Council member Michelle Sandoval, who served on the ad hoc committee that helped draft the resolution.

“I see us as actually saying that we’re protecting our rights. The rights that every person that walks on this soil – not just citizens – that we will protect them, because that is what America is about. And we will not allow the federal government to break that pledge.”

The council decided not to use the stronger term “sanctuary city” because, in part, the term could be misleading to vulnerable people.

“I do not want to lead them astray by thinking, because we call ourselves a ‘sanctuary city,’ that the undocumented people think that they are safe,” Sandoval said. “It’s well and fine for us to be defiant … but I’m thinking about the people that are most vulnerable.”

Sandoval said the term “sanctuary” was not helpful other than to “thumb our noses at this current administration.”

About a dozen people spoke in support of the resolution during public comment. No one spoke against it.

Libby Palmer of Port Townsend said the resolution was a “milestone.”

Vietnam veteran Karma Tenzing Wangchuk of Port Townsend wrote a short poem about the resolution:

“Sanctuary city: Wherever stand-up people stand up. Welcoming city is a term for a tourist ad … not for resistance to the hate-mongering of a would-be dictator.”

Fred Nussbaum said he was disappointed the word “sanctuary” was not used.

“I am an immigrant from Europe. If people had not taken my father in at great risk, I wouldn’t be here. It’s as simple as that,” Nussbaum said. “And I fear that we’re going to be in a situation where people are going to be not just harassed but persecuted for their immigration status, either by the federal authorities or by other folks who have decided to take the law into their own hands.”

Council members Robert Gray and Pamela Adams were concerned the resolution might endanger the city’s access to federal funds.

City Manager David Timmons said he didn’t think the risk was significant. He noted that the funding for the elective programs in question were authorized by Congress, not by the administration.

“I don’t see a great threat,” Timmons said. “It’s ironic in the fact that, if you look at the administration’s budget, all the programs that they say will be put at risk if you declare yourself sanctuary, they have recommended elimination, whether you’re a sanctuary city or not. So there’s a little bit of irony in that.”

City Attorney Steve Gross echoed Timmons’ conclusion that the city was not putting funding at risk.

Timmons said the city was not violating federal law by passing the resolution.

Among other items, the resolution, No. 17-014, resolves that the Port Townsend Police Department will not arrest a person based on that person’s immigration status unless a federal criminal warrant is issued.

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