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.
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’
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
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
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
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
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.
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.