At its heart it’s a simple reminder to treat all of those in our community with respect and civility.
A resolution that the Everett City Council is expected to consider this week reaffirms American values that recognize how a diversity of cultures, religious beliefs and ethnic and national backgrounds are a foundation of our communities. It recognizes the rights of all to live free of discrimination based on faith, race, sexual orientation or national origin; that bullying, intimidation, violence, harassment and actions influenced by hate cannot be condoned or allowed to go unchallenged; and that the services the city provides, chief among them public safety and protection, are open and accessible to all residents.
To that end, the resolution commits the city council members and the mayor to making Everett an inviting, equitable and safe community for all who live, work and visit; and to stand together in opposition to acts of violence, hate and intolerance committed against community members.
After what all can agree was a historically divisive election season, particularly regarding the nation’s presidency, partisans on both sides could use the reminder. There’s little value in keeping score; it’s not hard to point to bad actors on either side. But reports in the wider region — such as attacks and harassment of female Muslim students at the University of Washington’s Seattle and Bothell campuses — are especially disturbing.
At a council meeting last month following the election, Mayor Ray Stephanson noted that the city had heard from residents who were concerned for their safety and that of others in the community, adding, “we welcome all who choose to peacefully live here. … Our neighborhoods, schools and workplaces should be safe place for dialogue, learning and listening. No one should feel unsafe in our community.”
In response, Everett City Councilmember Cassie Franklin drafted the resolution the council will consider.
“Many folks are worried,” Franklin said in a telephone interview last week. “They need to know that the city’s leadership is committed to ensuring the city is a safe place.”
And yes, that assurance of safety should be extended to undocumented immigrants.
The resolution makes no explicit reference to Everett as a “sanctuary city.” But both Franklin and Stephanson have said the resolution is borne partly out of concern for those members of the community. Specifically drafting a resolution that declared Everett as a sanctuary city would have involved complex language that would have to be specific to several city departments, Franklin said.
And such a declaration may not be necessary; not all agree on what the term means. And Everett already has a policy, adopted in 2010, that clearly states the police department’s responsibilities regarding immigration.
Immigration, the policy states, is primarily the responsibility of the federal government. The Everett Police Department does not undertake immigration-related investigations and does not ask into the immigration status of people its officers routinely encounter.
The policy does make exceptions; it does ask for information about citizenship or immigration for those who are arrested and won’t be released on a summons, have been convicted of a felony, are suspected of terrorism, involved in street gang activity or determined to be a potential threat to the public.
It’s a policy that ensures safety not only for those who are not legal citizens, but for everyone.
“Our policy is intended to ensure that individuals who are victims or witnesses to a crime feel safe speaking with police, regardless of immigration status,” Everett Police Chief Dan Templeman said in a city news release.
Our national leaders need to get to work on long-absent reforms to immigration. Until then there are members of our community who are not legal citizens, but they live among us and are contributing to our society. They should be not be denied basic protections and services that should be available to anyone.