Community support vs. Raleigh intimidation
Photo by Todd Luck
Welcoming City resolution pulled
BY TODD LUCK
The controversial but highly supported Welcoming City resolution was pulled from consideration during a City Council meeting on Monday, April 17.
The resolution attempts to reassure immigrants and refugees after the Trump administration broadened immigration enforcement and repeatedly attempted to ban travelers and refugees from Muslim majority countries.
Its author, City Council Member Dan Besse, said he is going to try a new approach of getting clergy, community leaders and other elected officials to join council members in endorsing the resolution.
The resolution came about after the council was asked to adopt a Sanctuary City petition by the Sanctuary City Coalition, which includes groups like the Ministers’ Conference of Winston-Salem and Vicinity. In order to not run afoul of state law and a federal executive order prohibiting sanctuary cities, which usually don’t cooperate with federal immigration enforcement, a Welcoming City resolution was created. It says the city “takes pride in serving and protecting” all residents and “opposes any measures which target populations within our diverse community for legal scrutiny or other challenges.” It doesn’t prohibit the city from cooperating with immigration enforcement and the city attorney found it broke no law.
Despite this, during a meeting in Raleigh on March 29, the City Council was told by its legislative delegation to drop the matter. Council members were told no matter what the resolution said, that some legislators will view it as challenge to the Sanctuary City ban and may retaliate.
Over the past few months, supporters of the Welcoming City resolution have been more numerous than opponents at City Council meetings. About 1,000 people have signed the Sanctuary City petition.
Last week, an interfaith event at Temple Emanuel with clergy and supporters drew more than 155 people as they spoke out for the resolution.
“For the Christians among us, we have a different Executive Order – to love our neighbor and even our enemies, to welcome the stranger as Christ among us,” said Rev. Kelly Carpenter of Green Street United Methodist Church.
At a rally held just hours before the council meeting, close to 150 sup-porters gathered outside City Hall. They reiterated the need for the resolution and denounced legislators that oppose it.
“The Welcoming City resolution, there’s nothing illegal about it,” said Sanctuary City Coalition’s Danny Timpona. “It follows state law, it follows federal law. What are they scared of? They’re scared of us. They’re scared of power. They’re scared we’re coming together. They’re scared we’re paying attention.”
Both City Council Members Dan Besse and Derwin Montgomery spoke strongly in support of the resolution.
“We have passed resolutions in the past that have said similar things to what we will say tonight and if there’re members on the council tonight who decide not to vote, then we must ask ourselves the question: Did they lie on their last vote or is this one a lie tonight?” said Montgomery.
Besse said that when it became uncertain what the outcome of the vote would be, he decided to pull the resolution, rather than risk the message that a defeat would’ve sent immigrants and refugees in the community. However, it was pulled with only a vague explanation by Mayor Allen Joines that Besse would continue working on the issue. Frustrated supporters used the comment session to accuse the council of choosing their fear of the General Assembly over their own constituents. Only after the comment session, did Besse and Montgomery reassure them the resolution wasn’t dead and that they’d be working to garner support for it.
Besse said he believed that a larger coalition of supporters would make it harder for lawmakers to retaliate. He was unsure when the resolution would come back or even if it would still be a resolution or simply a joint statement that wouldn’t need City Council approval.
Whatever the fate of the resolution, supporters are planning to take action.
“Regardless of what our city decides, we have many sanctuaries in our city,” Rabbi Mark Strauss-Cohn said last week. “Regardless of what some politicians value, we value being welcoming in this city.”
At last week’s event, Rev. Craig Schaub of Parkway United Church of Christ said a meeting will be held at his church on Monday at 7 p.m. to dis-cuss plans for an immigrant legal defense fund and an interfaith rapid response network of people to act as public witness to immigration enforcement actions. He said they’d even discuss offering sanctuary to those at risk of deportation in places of worship. Federal law says that anyone knowingly harboring an undocumented immigrant in any place, even a church, can face prison time.