March 6, 2019 Victoria Matey and Maru Mora Villalpando
On February 25th, 2019 the City of Bellingham, in Washington State, reviewed the ordinance–#2017-02-008 and BMC Chapter 2.25 regarding immigration matters in the city. Two years ago, undocumented students and community members advised the city not to collaborate with federal immigration officials in order to make Bellingham a safer city for everyone by addressing racial profiling. Instead, the city passed an ordinance that not only dismissed everything the undocumented community was collectively working towards, but also passed an ordinance supposedly to protect the undocumented community with zero enforcement and accountability, and with no promise of keeping our community safe from immigration enforcement families being torn apart.
After the ordinance was passed, there was no effort by the City Council members to work with the organizers to strengthen the ordinance or to protect our undocumented community from the deportation machine attacking cities throughout the U.S. Since the ordinance passed, we have seen the Trump regime continue to threaten immigrant communities and activists, increase federal agents, increase funding for border security and detention, threaten DACA, and tear children apart from their families and cage them for profit. In the Bellingham undocumented community we have seen ICE strategically target numerous families, and our City officials have done nothing but keep silent.
After the ordinance was passed some community members began leading public weekly demonstrations outside City Hall. Back then those were led by undocumented leaders residents of the city, that is no longer the case. These were meant to show the City Council how serious the issue of immigrant enforcement is and generate further support. In our view this has not been accomplished. Around the same time, City officials started to identify residents for the “Whatcom County Human Rights Task Force.” The purpose of this Task Force as well as their members are unknown to us. The undocumented community living in Bellingham has no knowledge of what this group was, or what their intent had been regarding this ordinance. As far as we know no undocumented leaders have been informed about further processes regarding the ordinance or changes to it.
Back in late 2016 and early 2017 we began pressuring the City to introduce our ordinance, but we were merely used for local political theater, not only by local electeds, but also by other community members and groups, and it’s still happening today. There have been multiple times that white community members, including at least one Council member, used our names and community to appear aligned with us in order to appeal to the progressive voters of Bellingham, but instead ignored our leadership and never consulted with us.
The latest hearing regarding the immigration ordinance we first pushed for is a clear example of this:
- Before the February hearing a white woman representing a local community grassroots group called one of us to “turn out people” to the hearing.
- The day before the hearing, another white woman from the same community group interrupted a presentation one of us was doing to talk about how they knew more about the topic than us.
- The Councilperson calling for changes to the ordinance reached out to one of us the day after the public hearing.
- Not one of us has been contacted in good faith, yet our name has been thrown around by elected officials trying to appeal to the white “progressive” voter base, and when local community groups want to appear aligned with us to invite people to their weekly demonstrations which are not led by undocumented leaders.
Whatever results of the ordinance are we want to make sure our undocumented community, the larger Bellingham community, local community groups, elected officials and the community supporting us know the following:
1- The undocumented leaders that brought this issue and demanded real political action have not been consulted; we were not only marginalized but merely used as a prop for political gain.
2- Community groups have been relying on tokenizing and victimizing us even further by using our names and our struggles to gain supporters and validity for their groups.
3- A local attorney only reached out to one of us after the hearing had occurred, and in our view to cover her mistake.
4- The local elected officials of Bellingham have ignored the issue of immigration enforcement but are willing to use the anti-Trump environment to appear progressive.
5- Whatever results are of the ordinance at hand, we don’t support them and we are sure it won’t stop the racial profiling undocumented communities of color face in this city every day.
6- We call on the real progressives out there to join us in calling out the City’s efforts to use our tragedies for their own gain. If in reality there is even an intent to correct things, the ordinance would be rewritten by us – undocumented leaders of color living in Bellingham.
7- Everyone in Bellingham, community groups, white women with good intentions, elected officials, we demand that you stop using our names in any publication, social media or event without our consent.
Victoria Matey and
Maru Mora Villalpando
Undocumented leader residents of Bellingham, Washington