YAKIMA, Wash. -- Despite numerous complaints and concerns from audience members, the Yakima City Council voted unanimously Tuesday to create a resolution to ensure that all residents — regardless of immigration status — feel safe.
Many in the audience were upset that the council was discussing possible “sanctuary city” status. Comments included referring to undocumented immigrants as illegal aliens, crooks and other negative stereotypes.
Several council members disagreed openly with the commenters; some said they were personally offended or indicated that commenters had no evidence to back up their claims.
“I don’t see why you want to bring more illegals in, needy people who are already taxing our resources to the max,” Yakima resident Rick Weiss said. “Sanctuary cities are illegal. It’s been proven that crimes increase in sanctuary cities.”
Others in attendance, council members included, argued that the claim that noncitizens are criminals is false, adding that much of the city’s agricultural economic base relies on the labor of those who may not have the correct papers to prove their citizenship.
Not only are these claims false, Councilwoman Carmen Mendez said, but council members took an oath at the beginning of their term to protect all the city’s residents, “not just a handful.”
The council discussed the possibility of Yakima becoming a sanctuary city in response to two comments at prior council meetings.
Councilwoman Avina Gutierrez said Tuesday’s discussion was to merely start the conversation. But the council did end up unanimously voting to look at wording for a resolution establishing Yakima as some sort of sanctuary or welcoming city at its next meeting. It is unclear what language that resolution will use, but Gutierrez was clear in explaining that such a resolution would be tailored to Yakima’s residents.
In other council business:
• The council voted to establish an ad hoc committee made up of the chairpersons of the economic development, public safety and neighborhood and community building committees to further discuss a city-sponsored homeless camp. All conversations, including that of a possible camp in the 1800 block of North First Street, will be brought to that committee.
• The council voted on a December deadline for funding for the downtown plaza and nominated Councilwomen Maureen Adkison, Carmen Mendez and Dulce Gutierrez to work with the plaza fundraising committee on applying for grants.
• The council voted to establish a Transportation Benefit District, which will allow the city to charge up to $20 per vehicle per year as a part of registration fees. The money will go to streets, streetlights and sidewalk projects. The council did not settle on a fee but decided to continue the discussion at its Jan. 31 meeting.