July 2, 2019 Dena Jensen
This election season I encourage residents of Whatcom County to call on 2019 candidates for office to use their visibility and amplified voices during their campaigns to spark critical changes for negatively impacted communities all around us who are experiencing crisis.
In 2015, Joy Gilfilen, a resident of rural Whatcom County, ran against current Whatcom County Executive Jack Louws for that position, which Louws ultimately did capture in the election. However, Ms. Gilfilen performed incredible public service throughout her campaign, in raising awareness regarding the dangers of Mr. Louws’ pet mega-jail project in Ferndale that would have had the potential to ultimately be used as another inhumane immigrant prison. Joy tirelessly advocated for critical justice reforms, as well.
Ms. Gilfilen is now running once again for Whatcom County Sheriff against current Sheriff Bill Elfo. She is similarly, during her campaign this year, educating the community on justice reform, and is also demanding a seat at the table, in reform discussions, for those who have been drawn into the cycle of incarceration.
Another one of the candidates this year, also stepping up to speak out on critical social justice issues like the climate crisis and immigration, is Dana Briggs who is a candidate for the Council At-Large position on the Bellingham City Council. Mr. Briggs has been showing up to speak at Council meetings for some time now, notably advocating for people experiencing homelessness who were in danger of freezing to death during the extreme weather that found Whatcom County and Bellingham elected leaders flat-footed in providing adequate extreme weather shelter during February 2019.
Below is a transcription of Mr. Briggs’ public testimony in front of Bellingham City Council Members at their July 1, 2019 meeting, regarding the urgent need for a sanctuary ordinance . (Just a note that the resolution Mr. Briggs refers to in his extemporaneous comment was actually an ordinance, and it was passed in February 2017):
“Good evening, my name is Dana Briggs. I’m not going to talk about the climate tonight because we actually have another emergency going on. In March of 2017 this Council, without Ms. Stone being on it, passed a resolution, purportedly having to do with, what some people would like to have called sanctuary city status for Bellingham. In the intervening over two years, the situation has now gotten to the point where tens of thousands of people, regardless of what their immigration status is, their lives are in danger.
“Today there was a congressional delegation made up of primarily Latina women from the House of Representatives that went to three sites in Texas, had to force their way into the facility, force their way into cell facilities to be able to talk to people, and found people doing among other things, getting their drinking water out of toilets. This is all on the record.
“The Northwest Detention Center down by Tacoma has been in existence for a long time and you’ve probably heard from community members within Bellingham, especially Community to Community, about the atrocious behavior of the Customs and Border Patrol agents down there.
“What also came out today was a report by Politico, that of the approximately 20,000 customs and border patrol agents in this country, many of whom live in Whatcom County, and some probably within the confines of Bellingham, about 9500 of those are in a secret Facebook group that they just opened up. And they were, among other things, calling the congressional delegation that went to Texas: bitches, whores – lewd Photo-Shopped photos, and in some cases were threatening the lives of members of that congressional delegation, online.
“Now, we don’t know for a fact whether Customs and Border agents that live within Whatcom County, let alone Bellingham, are part of that 9500. But even by their silence, they’re complicit in the behavior of individuals who basically mirror everything having to do with every totalitarian regime that I’ve ever learned about through history.
“This council needs to proactively go to Community to Community and every other impacted community within Bellingham, modify or throw out the original resolution and build one with them at the table helping you determine to do this, because we need to push back against an atrocious national government who is violating international civil and humanitarian rights, left, right and sideways. Please do this.”