The city of Renton has declared itself to be an “inclusive” city, but has not yet adopted the label of a sanctuary city.
The Feb. 27 Renton City Council meeting began with a special proclamation that said “Renton believes that n inclusive community and promotes mutual respect and appreciation for all people represented within its community.”
However, members of an online Facebook group called “Renton Resist” voiced their concern at the meeting regarding the label.
“[The proclamation] is a wonderful step toward what we all believe what Renton needs to be. What we would like to do is call on the council to pass a resolution for a sanctuary city,” said Angel Swanson, a member of the group, at the meeting. “We believe it is a necessary step in light of the things that are happening and in the news we are reading every day in the papers… We respectfully request that you pass a resolution of a sanctuary city as opposed to welcoming city.”
“Unless we’re willing to stand up for the diversity that makes this city a unique place to call home, we may lose what it is that we individually treasure about our city,” said Chandra Lindquist, another member of Renton Resist, at the meeting. “Sanctuary city status will make us stronger as a city because undocumented residents will feel safer, their children will feel protected and it sends the message that we care. And I care a lot, which is why I’m here.”
According to the proclamation, a “person’s right to file a police report, participate in police-community activities, or other wise benefit from the police services is not contingent upon citizenship or immigration status and no person should be afraid to call 911 for fear of their residency will be questioned, because Renton’s police and public employees do not ask a person’s immigration status.”
Councilmember Randy Corman said the council should talk more about the issue.
“The question of the label of sanctuary city is one that we never really discussed as a council,” said Randy Corman. “Obviously this is sort of new territory that we’re going into. I think it deserves a fair hearing… I did get the feedback from the members of our community that the word sanctuary city means something to the immigrant community.”
Mayor Denis Law said the sanctuary city label could make the city a potential target.
“A number of cities have resisted only for the reason that there’s some fear that it puts a target on the city by the federal government,” he said. “Our policies, as it pertains to interacting to our community and residents, is no different to Seattle’s… but if people don’t feel safe unless you say sanctuary, I would hate to give them a false sense of security. I would also hate to become a list of west coast cities where there’s extra enforcement.”
The council met with the Latino advisory group on Tuesday to discuss the issue further.
Right after President Donald Trump signed the executive order to pull federal funding from sanctuary cities and restrict travel from seven Muslim-majority countries, Law released a statement stressing the city’s commitment to “build an inclusive city with opportunities for all.”
“The recent executive orders by President Trump, especially those related to immigration, have created a lot of fear and concern throughout the country and in our community. Renton’s community members have been asking how our city is dealing with the issue,” the statement read.
Law said that city employees, including police officers, do not check on the immigration status or documentation of the residents, and that the city has been meeting with community leaders and members of local immigrant communities to reassure them that the city has no plans to “check on the status of those doing business with the city or requesting police or any other city assistance, regardless of mandates coming from the White House.”