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‘Welcoming’ resolution divides community


Councilmember Scott Whelpley speaks during a council meeting Monday evening, June 5, at City Hall.

Mukilteo can officially call itself a welcoming city for all people, regardless of immigration status.

In a 4-2 vote, the City Council approved a resolution Monday evening, June 5, affirming Mukilteo as “safe, inclusive and welcoming” after more than an hour of public comment and council discussion.

Councilmembers Ted Wheeler and Scott Whelpley voted against the resolution, calling it a waste of time that has only served to divide the community.

“The city’s divided,” Whelpley said, noting that he and his fellow council members have received more emails regarding “this sanctuary city thing” than any other issue. “Right now, we need to stay united, and this is dividing us.”

The Mukilteo Beacon asked readers last week in an online poll whether the council should pass the resolution. Some 30 respondents said yes, while 31 said no.

Of the 15 people who gave public comment during the meeting, 11 were opposed. Four City Council candidates spoke, with Anna Rohrbough, Troy Gray and Peter Zieve opposed, and Mohammed Riaz Kahn in support.

“I believe that by putting this issue in front of the council to make a decision, we’re actually politicizing it,” Rohrbough said. “It creates a divide within our community.”

Former Mayor Don Duran said it’s not the council’s place to weigh in on federal immigration policy enforcement. He said the issue is partisan and the council is not.

“I would argue it’s the community’s responsibility for creating a community that’s loving and accepting,” he said. “We have created a community that is loving and accepting and welcoming and supportive and protective of all people. I would argue that this is a solution looking urgently for a problem.”

Though Councilmember Richard Emery researched and drafted the resolution, it was Councilmember Randy Lord who first raised the idea in January of clarifying the law in the face of President Donald Trump’s rhetoric on immigration and his executive order banning people from certain Muslim-majority countries from entering the country.

“I wanted to advise our citizens of what the law really is compared to what we hear in the 6 o’clock news,” he said.

Policy Analyst Marko Liias pointed out that enforcing federal immigration policy and inquiring into someone’s immigration status are violations of both the U.S. and state constitutions. He also noted that being in the U.S. without proper documentation of citizenship is a civil issue.

“If the federal government and its authorities were to obtain a criminal warrant from a federal judge, the city would comply with that and cooperate,” Liias said. “In this case, because it’s a civil offense and not a criminal offense, ICE does not use those tools.”

Assistant Police Chief Glen Koen said trust is essential to police work and public safety.

“If the community does not trust us, they will not report crimes to us, and if they don’t report crimes to us, we cannot take action on those crimes,” he said.

Lord also said many immigrants fear talking to police.

“Many people have immigrated from countries where the police are an arm of the administration,” he said. “Many of them are afraid to talk to their police because it doesn’t take much for people to disappear and it’s happened to them, so they are cowed into silence.”

Whelpley said fear of deportation is not an issue.

“People fear more that you’re going to raise their taxes,” he said. “That’s what they’re concerned about, so that’s what we should be discussing. We have wasted enough time on this.”

Councilmember Christine Cook said she doesn’t consider the discussion a waste of time.

“I personally have learned a lot about how our police department functions in handling immigration issues,” she said.

Council President Bob Champion, who is defending his seat against two challengers – Zieve and Christina Over – had questioned in February why the discussion was happening at all since he had not heard much public clamor. He voted for the resolution, saying he was ready to move on.

Many of those who spoke against the resolution, including Wheeler, suggested it would invite illegal immigrants into Mukilteo, and crime would follow. Kamiak sophomore Niko Battle said that is a misnomer based on fear.

“The most recent statistics say that the people who commit the most crimes per capita are U.S. born citizens, and specifically white people,” he said, noting that many of his classmates are undocumented immigrants.

Position 3 City Council Candidate Troy Gray said he worries about the cost of providing public services to undocumented immigrants.

“Illegal immigrants take a toll on society,” he said. “They use our schools, hospitals, police, prisons, but they don’t all pay taxes like we do.”

Kevin Stoltz said he’s scared President Trump will follow through with threats to cut federal grant funding to cities that do not cooperate with federal immigration authorities.

“I just don’t want Mukilteo to be a target,” he said.

Former Mukilteo Mayor Don Duran speaks during a council meeting Monday evening, June 5, at City Hall.

Lord said President Trump does not have the authority to cut funding.

“It is a legislative process by our Congress and Senate,” he said. “It turns out those are idle threats.”

Lord also warned of authoritarianism creeping toward fascism and underlined the importance of upholding everyone’s constitutional rights.

“We are not changing the law, we are not ignoring the law, we are following the law,” he said. “If all of sudden everyone has to carry their papers, I don’t want to live in a country like that. That’s not what democracy is all about.”


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