Reviewing the formation of Bellingham’s Immigration Advisory Board; first meeting is June 23, 2020 / Noisy Waters Northwest

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June 15, 2020  Dena Jensen

I am posting an excerpt from a January 31, 2020 post here on Noisy Waters Northwest so that people can have a chance to review some background about the formation of Bellingham City Council’s Immigration Advisory Board which will be having their very first meeting (remotely) on Tuesday, June 23, 2020, from 6:00 p.m to 8:00 p.m.  The link for the meeting has not yet been posted on the City of Bellingham website.

This material is excerpted from notes taken from a recording of Community to Community Development’s Migrant Justice Forum on January 22, 2020. Liz Darrow of C2C gave the presentation. At that time membership on the Immigration Advisory Board had not been finalized, but it is now.  Here is a link to the member roster: https://www.cob.org/Documents/mayor/boards-commissions/immigration/Immigration%20Advisory%20Board%20Roster.pdf

Update on COB’s Immigration Advisory Board

The Immigration Advisory Board was established by the City of Bellingham and was nearly a three year fight. It is not necessarily a go yet but there was an ordinance passed by Bellingham City Council Members, 7-0, to establish that board. The ordinance passed in October 2019 and then the election was in November when there was a shifting around of City Council Members, some of them new, and a new mayor came on board for the City.

After the ordinance passed it was said that the ordinance would be on hold until the new mayor took their seat in January, but that people could submit applications for positions on the board. One thing that was not known to C2C when the ordinance was written, was that unless there’s and exception stipulated to the City rule that a person serving on the board must be a resident of the City of Bellingham for at least one year, then they can’t be on the board.

There are 12 seats on the board that had been outlined very clearly. Much of the leadership from Community to Community Development, Familias Unidas por la Justicia, and Raid Relief to Reunite Families, do not live in the City of Bellingham, so they can’t serve on that board. This was a frustrating surprise when people who had already submitted applications started getting rejections notices. Liz Darrow, herself, has applied, but no one knows yet who will be appointed.

C2C would like for part of the process for the board to be to write in an exception in that ordinance. C2C was to be meeting with COB Mayor Seth Fleetwood the day following the forum (January 23).

After the debacle with trying to get a sanctuary ordinance, many means have been used, direct action, Dignity Vigils, meeting with people, and going to the State level with ideas and getting legislation passed there.

The vigils that Brenda Bentley led in downtown Bellingham for almost three years played a huge part in getting that ordinance for the Immigration Advisory Board passed.

C2C wants the right people to be at the table and wants meaningful legislation and policy passed.

One of the things that happens post election for the City is that they have a restructuring process. COB has space for six City Council committees and that’s all.So all of the community work they want to do is under six titles. Last year when the ordinance for the Immigration Advisory Board was being considered, there was a Justice Committee headed by Council Member Hannah Stone who worked with C2C and a civil attorney, and they worked hard on the language for the ordinance.

In January though, they scrapped the Justice Committee and lumped it in with Public Health and Safety with a different chair who doesn’t have the background or interest in the prior work. This is a frustration because not all Council Members are the same and C2C has intentionally sought to work with Council Members who understand the issues of immigrants and farmworkers. Council Member Dan Hammill is the chair of the Public Health, Safety, & Justice committee. At points in the past he has actively blocked or has avoided this process.

If there are challenges ahead in working with present Committee and Council members, downtown Dignity Vigils can always be brought back if necessary.

Here is a link to the original Noisy Waters Northwest post that this section is excerpted from: https://noisywatersnw.com/2020/01/31/new-immigrant-advisory-board-and-wa-bills-to-support-highlighted-at-c2cs-migrant-justice-forum-noisy-waters-northwest/