Addressing not only a packed Chamber, but the City of Seattle and beyond, Resolution 31730 was unanimously approved by the Seattle City Council today.
Sponsored by Position 9 Citywide Council Member Lorena González, the resolution:
affirming the City of Seattle as a Welcoming City that promotes policies and programs to foster inclusion for all, and serves its residents regardless of their immigration or refugee status, race, color, creed, religion, ancestry, national origin, age, sex, marital status, parental status, sexual orientation, gender identity, political ideology, disability, homelessness, low-income or veteran status, and reaffirming the City’s continuing commitment to advocate and support the wellbeing of all residents.
While initially it may seem the resolution was only a simple gesture of support, it actually comes backed by $250,000, budgeted previously in 2016 via the Mayor’s Executive Order 2016-018, to be directed at students in the Seattle Public Schools affected by federal policies directed at immigrants and refugees in 2017. This also includes undocumented students, in line with Seattle’s position as a Sanctuary City.
The resolution also calls for implementation of the charts of the “Inclusive and Equitable City Cabinet”, also established via the Mayor’s prior Executive Order. These include
- Developing a public awareness campaign around hate speech and crimes.
- Conducting a review of the potential policy and financial impacts of new federal initiatives on City departments.
- Working with immigrant and refugee community stakeholders and community-based organizations.
- Working with regional partners to share knowledge and information and the City’s efforts.
- Developing a strategy for the creation and funding of a Legal Defense Fund
With a three page long roster of those wanting to participate in the public comment session, it took a little over an hour to make it through the public’s agenda. Not only were Council Chambers full (minus the five seats vacated by earlier presenters), but an additional overflow area was used for fellow citizens waiting their turn at the podium.
Not all in attendance were in support of the resolution. A particularly fiery Mr. Tyrone Kenney, a local homeless advocate, called on City Council to prioritize the problems of Seattle’s homeless community over those of the immigrants facing the current blockade set by the federal government. In Mr. Kenney’s own words:
This year…you can’t even count the number of homeless people out in the street. And y’all sitting up here crying about what’s going on with the President, you need to be crying about what’s going on in your City. Sitting here, I pray to God, I challenge each and every one of [you councilmen] to pick up one of the homeless and take them home and clean them up. That’s what we need to be cleaning up. We worrying about the immigrant coming here and this and that, but you need to worrying about how your city look with the people staying in tents all around the streets. You’re sad! it’s been going on 42 years. That’s all I have to say.
On the opposite side of the spectrum, Marcos Martinez, Executive Director for the Seattle chapter of the organization Casa Latina, which has the mission of “empowering Latino immigrants through educational and economic opportunities”, approached the podium with resounding applause he and his colleagues declared their support of the resolution. As described by Marcos:
Just last week, one of my coworkers was the target of racial insults getting off the bus. And unfortunately this has become a very common occurrence since the election season. We support this resolution, very important because it sends a clear and strong message to the community about our values as an inclusive society where racial insults are not welcome. Where attacking people because of their sexual orientation, their gender identity, their religion or their national origin does not reflect who we are as a community and does not represent our highest ideals as a people. You know normally we would not need this kind of resolution, because we would all assume that we all agree that all people are created equal. But unfortunately, the recent election season in the last year, couple of years, have unleashed [and] empowered a level of hate that we have not seen in this country. So, it is imperative that we take steps, every single one of us, and you as public servants and elected leaders take this very important measure, to make this public statement by approving this resolution.
As part of the discussion of the resolution, the sponsor, Lorena González, highlighted why the City of Seattle is directly impacted by the President’s actions:
The City of Seattle is a home to foreign nationals from all over the world, including Syria, Iraq, Iran and Somalia. In fact, one in five Seattle residents was not born in this country. They are not terrorists, they are our neighbors, our parents, our aunts, our uncles, our brothers, our sisters – they are Seattleites, and they are American.
Upon approval of the resolution, the chamber erupted in a standing ovation.