Dozens of residents filled the Yakima City Council chambers Tuesday night urging the council to reconsider its earlier rejection of a resolution designating Yakima a “welcoming city.”
Some 30 residents spoke in favor of a measure that welcomes all residents regardless of immigration status.
Yakima resident Audel Ramirez noted the resolution rejected by the council last month would apply not only to ban discrimination to those who immigrated to the country illegally, but also to other noncitizens, including visa holders and those with work permits.
“It has become clear in the last weeks that the president will not hesitate to trample the Constitution ... and prevent legal residents and visitors’ entrance into the United States,” he said.
Should that momentum continue, the city needs a process to make all residents feel welcome, he said.
Similar comments continued for more than an hour, with the vast majority of speakers voicing support for the measure.
The council did not take a new vote on the resolution, but will host a meeting at 3 p.m. Feb. 23 to allow residents to voice opinions on the proposal in an open forum. A site for the meeting was not announced.
Tuesday night’s comments came in response to a 4-3 vote by the council on Jan. 17 to reject the resolution that would have made Yakima a “welcoming city.” Councilwomen Dulce Gutierrez, Avina Gutierrez and Carmen Mendez voted for the measure, while Councilmembers Kathy Coffey, Holly Cousens, Bill Lover and Maureen Adkison voted against it.
Ariel Adams, who said she lives on the Yakama reservation, said she wants Yakima to take the same approach Native Americans did when they first welcomed settlers.
“I want to make Yakima a welcoming city,” she said. “I want to be able to show refugees and immigrants the same hospitality that my ancestors showed your ancestors.”
Only a handful of residents spoke against a designation, including Sandi Belzer.
“We’re already a welcoming city. Our police chief and sheriff made it perfectly clear,” she said referring to statements by both law enforcement officials that their officers do not ask people about immigration status.
For that reason, she said, Yakima shouldn’t adopt a resolution that puts the city in the possible cross hairs of the Trump administration, which has stated its objection to cities that provide sanctuary to immigrants in the country illegally.
Other opponents of the measure said the city can’t take care of its current residents, so it shouldn’t welcome more that it can’t help.
In other council business:
• The council voted to conduct a study session about a new economic development plan, aimed at improving the city’s image to outside businesses and getting city-owned sites ready for development.
• The council approved a request made by the Yakima Fire Department to apply for grants that would fund part of the salary for three firefighters for the next three years. Contingent on contract negotiations, the city of Union Gap is expected to pay the other part of the firefighters’ salaries.