February 13, 2018 Dena Jensen
Dear Bellingham City Council and Whatcom County Council:
I am writing early this week to let you know that next week there will be a special Dignity Vigil honoring the one year anniversary of these vigils in downtown Bellingham held in solidarity with immigrant and undocumented people, and to stand against law enforcement and federal immigration collaboration which leads to deportation. I hope you will all plan on attending during any portion, or all of the 11:30 a.m.-1:00 p.m. time period. I will send you more details about next Monday’s vigil when they are available!:
It was a sunny lunch hour at yesterday’s, 2/12/18, Dignity Vigil. We had enough folks turn out in front of City Hall that some headed over to stand in front of the County Courthouse with signs messaging about the vigil’s focus on Immigration and Customs Enforcement and questioning why City officials are not speaking out publicly in support of immigrants rights activist Maru Mora-Villalpando who has been served papers initiating deportation proceedings.
Also, some Bellingham City Council members walked past the vigil on their way into City Hall, and Council Member Lilliquist came out, at one point, to talk to community members who were standing in solidarity at the vigil. I was pleased that Council Member Lilliquist provided information about a City Council committee meeting that day that might be relevant to issues we were concerned about. When asked a question, he also engaged in a conversation about why he has not spoken out publicly in support of Maru Mora-Villalpando. I know it is not easy to be challenged on such issues, so I am grateful for his listening to challenges to his position, so far, of not speaking publicly and/or taking actions similar to those of Senator Maria Cantwell and Congressman Adam Smith in support of Maru and in opposition to the ongoing persecution of immigrants rights activists. I look forward to seeing more Council Members at the Monday vigils, especially Whatcom County Council Members, who, to my knowledge, have not yet been present, over the past year, in the locations vigil attendees were in during Dignity Vigils.
Here is additional feedback, from me, to all Council Members regarding the ongoing invitation to attend Dignity Vigils and your engagement with concerned individuals and groups advocating for oppressed and persecuted members of our community. I would encourage Council Members, along with being present, to most importantly: 1. ask questions of community members, 2. find out why they are present at the vigils or other events or meetings, 3. listen carefully to their questions, concerns, and perspectives, and then 4. find a means of addressing those through empowering the individuals who are making the effort to engage with you and to partner in solutions with them.
For example, if a Council Member is asked to speak publicly in support of an issue or individual and does not register a motivation for this themselves, they can ask community members why it would be powerful, or, if they know it has not been powerful in the past, how in this case it could be different. Are there actions that could go along with it to help the vocal support be viewed as sincere? Or maybe actions are being taken by government agencies that community members are unaware of that could be announced and paired with the vocal support, etc. I believe, focusing on how a positive result can be achieved vs. offering a defense of why it can’t be is a critical component to forming successful partnerships with community members that will benefit our region as a whole.
Meanwhile, I call on all of you Council Members, and those copied on this email, to be reaching out to oppressed communities and to be taking resolute action in committee and council meetings in partnership with these community members that will ensure a timely end to both racial profiling and the persecution of immigrants and undocumented individuals in our community by Immigration and Customs Enforcement Agents, Border Patrol agents, especially by way of collaboration with our local police and sheriff’s office.
I am sending along a link to another January, 2018 news report on the city of Oakland’s resolution to ban cooperation with agents from U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement. The statement of Oakland’s Mayor Schaff in the video clip reflects the spirit of commitment I would like to see from our City and County officials regarding protecting our immigrant and undocumented community members. http://sanfrancisco.cbslocal.com/2018/01/17/oakland-bans-cooperation-federal-immigration-agents-braces-for-ice-raids/
Birch Bay, WA
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