Statement on Sanctuary Cities

Originally delivered before Mayor Ted Wheeler and the Portland City Council, 3/22/17.

Despite all the fanfare that preceded public testimony, the declaration of Portland as a welcoming, ‘Sanctuary City’ is nothing but sky-high rhetoric. We need more from our leaders. Mr. Saltzman has spoken of “the times,” and his awareness of them. So can I.

As I’m sure you’re all aware, last week, a member of our community, a resident of this already so-called “Sanctuary City,” was picked up by ICE; he was detained here in our so-called “Sanctuary City” before being taken up to a detention center in Tacoma. Personally, I work with youth who tell me that since Trump became President, their moms don’t want them out after dark. A colleague of mine who has Mexican heritage carries around his passport everywhere he goes.

This is unacceptable. Portland is already a “Sanctuary City,” Oregon a “Sanctuary State,” according to Governor Brown. However, without legal backing, the words “Sanctuary City” remain just those: words. It sounds nice, it sounds like it should be enough, but it simply is not. Mr. Fish just said so himself.

In a recent interview with OPB, Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti was asked why he was one to avoid the phrase “Sanctuary City.” The answer he gave is that there is currently no legal precedent defining a “Sanctuary City” or “Sanctuary State.” This means no resolution, no court ruling establishing a definition.

I am asking that the City Council work with the City Attorney’s office to write a resolution creating a legal definition of “Sanctuary City,” not just words. This means refusing to collaborate with ICE. This means creating safe spaces for people facing or fearing deportation. This means doing so much more than patting yourselves on the back for your flowery rhetoric while deportations continue in our so-called “Sanctuary City.”

Power to the People and thank you.