By Denis Law
Four months following the presidential election, the country remains divided. Hate crimes seem to be on the increase, and local residents, especially immigrants, are seeking help from the city to address their fears of threats surrounding new enforcement efforts of immigration laws.
The primary issue that is in the news each day deals with immigration policies and directives coming from the White House. Without doubt, there is a lot of concern among immigrants over threats of deportation that may impact family members and friends.
I have been hosting regular meetings with members of my inclusion task force, representatives from the local African-American clergy, and community leaders from the Latino community to discuss the current situation. I am working with them to explore how we can build confidence among our immigrant population and let them know our history as a city of not checking immigration status has not changed. Our commitment to be an inclusive city and protect and serve everyone in our community remains strong.
At the last Council meeting on Monday, Feb. 27, I issued a proclamation, which was adopted by the City Council, stating that Renton is an inclusive city in accordance with Renton’s business plan and mission statement, adopted by the council in 2012.
The proclamation reiterated the fact that Renton employees, including our police officers, do not check on the immigration status or documentation of our residents. We continue to work closely with leaders of our local immigrant communities to help spread the word. We want all immigrants to feel safe in accessing city services, including police when they need help, without fear of their immigration status being checked. We have concerns that some immigrants may hesitate to call for help, fearing they will jeopardize their personal situations. I want to assure all our residents that the city of Renton is committed to their safety and well-being.
This doesn’t mean that we won’t arrest individuals that are committing crimes or have outstanding warrants. We will continue to arrest people involved in illegal activity. But we have never requested immigration documentation from people stopped for traffic violations or those reporting crimes. We also don’t check to see if people have paid their taxes or filed required tax returns to the IRS.
In Renton, we continue to emphasize that we will not tolerate hate crimes, discrimination, or harassment. We believe in the dignity, equality, and constitutional and civil rights of all people; and we are committed to being a welcoming and inclusive place for all to live, work, learn, and play.