Monday, June 26, 2017

Bravo to Rodriguez for speaking up in favor of immigrant resolution

source: The Willits News, June 22, 2017

Earlier this month the Eureka Times Standard reported the Arcata City Council adopted an ordinance making Arcata a sanctuary city.
According to the news report, a round of applause rang out in the council chambers after the council voted 3-1, with one councilman dissenting, to pass the sanctuary ordinance.
Contrast this with Willits City Council which recently passed a resolution by a 3-2 vote championed by Councilwoman Saprina Rodriguez affirming a commitment to non-discrimination and supporting immigrants in the community. The resolution was passed by City Council late last month, but not without controversy.

Although Rodriguez said she had to fight to get the item on the council’s agenda, on the night of the May 24 meeting, Mayor Gerry Gonzalez had announced that he was pulling the item from the agenda on advice from City Attorney Jim Lance.
Gonzalez took issue with the original resolution’s wording which he felt could potentially result in the city losing federal grant funding. Although the mayor had pulled the item from the agenda, fellow council members and members of the public in attendance urged him to proceed with the discussion of the resolution. By all accounts, by the time the item was brought back for discussion, a crowd of residents seeking to give input on the matter had thinned out. Some went home in disappointment upon hearing the item had been originally pulled.

Rodriguez said she let her fellow council members know she felt pulling the item was not OK and it was also an abuse of Gonzalez’ authority.
A controversial paragraph in the resolution which in part stated the Willits Police Department would continue its long-standing practice of not participating or aiding in the enforcement of federal immigration laws was revised, taking out the phrase “long standing practice.”
Rodriguez is to be commended for her staunch determination to bring the Willits City Council in alignment with many cities in the state and the nation with regards to supporting their immigrant populations.

The councilwoman said she felt it was her obligation to bring the resolution forward, despite being shut down initially by Gonzalez. She said she gave a draft copy of the resolution to Lance and City Manager Adrienne Moore on May 10, but the item had to make its way through a process before it could make its way to the council’s agenda for the May 24 meeting.
Even though Hispanics and other minorities comprise a lower percentage of Willit’s population and demographics, as Rodriguez correctly points out, there was clearly enough interest in the issue as an immigration town hall held in late March turned out to be one of the highest attended events in recent years, despite a low attendance by the population it was intended to serve.

We can hardly blame Hispanics and immigrants for staying away from this and other forums held throughout Mendocino County, despite reassurances from Sheriff Tom Allman and other law enforcement and county officials that they will have no direct involvement in carrying out federal immigration law in the wake of a federal executive order signed by President Donald Trump this January, there has been great confusion spreading over social media regarding possible ICE raids in Lake County.
I believe Rodriguez is also correct in her assertion that the loss of federal funds is an overplayed argument in opposition to these types of resolutions.

As public sentiment throughout the nation evolves and changes, support for local resolutions has increased from cities across the nation and they continue to be approved at a rapid race.
Gonzalez and other local leaders in Willits have advocated for restraint, fearing the loss of federal funds and citing direction from organizations like the League of California Cities in regards to adopting a sanctuary city ordinance, but as Rodriguez said, the threat of federal funding should not be a critical factor in adopting a resolution when it comes to safeguarding residents and allaying mass fear or confusion.

Leaders don’t always make a decision based on funding, and Willits is not out on an island, nor would it be alone in supporting its immigrant population - joining cities like Santa Rosa and Windsor which have passed similar resolutions or declared themselves as sanctuary cities, despite threats from the federal government.
I add myself to the list of those whom Rodriguez said have overwhelmingly thanked her for her moral leadership.