The “welcoming city” committee, made of up city council members Amy Howard, Michelle Sandoval and David Faber, from left, listen to questions from other council members during Monday’s meeting. (Cydney McFarland/Peninsula Daily News)

The “welcoming city” committee, made of up city council members Amy Howard, Michelle Sandoval and David Faber, from left, listen to questions from other council members during Monday’s meeting. (Cydney McFarland/Peninsula Daily News)

Port Townsend unanimously approves ‘Welcoming City’ resolution

PORT TOWNSEND — The Port Townsend City Council unanimously approved a “Welcoming City” resolution, which reaffirms city practices that mirrors those in cities like Seattle and Olympia, which are called sanctuary cities.

Council members said there is no legal definition of a “sanctuary city,” so the council refrained from using the word “sanctuary” in the resolution in its approval of the resolution on Monday night.

The resolution says that local law enforcement will not detain people based solely on their immigration status and will not assist federal customs or border agencies.

The resolution puts the city at risk of losing federal funds because of an executive order signed by President Donald Trump in January.

The order threatens to withhold federal funds from cities and counties that don’t comply with 8 U.S.C 1373, which prohibits local law enforcement from restricting information on undocumented immigrants from federal Immigration and Naturalization Services.

“We’re not trying to violate federal law here,” said Councilman David Faber.

“What we’re really trying to do here is make sure public safety is the paramount focus of our police department with the limited amount of resources we have here.”

According to the resolution, the Port Townsend Police Department will not detain or arrest anyone based on immigration or citizenship status unless the police are responding to a federal criminal warrant.

Police also will not comply with, or assist with, warrants administered by Immigration of Customs Enforcement or any Customs and Boarder agencies of the Department of Homeland Security.

The resolution requests that the Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office adopt the same practices.

The resolution was discussed by the council in February, but after an outpouring of public input, the city decided to create a committee of council members Faber, Michelle Sandoval and Amy Howard to create another draft.

According to city officials, Port Townsend received an estimated $11 million in federal funding in 2016.

City Manager David Timmons said that most of those federal dollars went to disaster mitigation, implementing environmental protections and funding a domestic violence victims assistance program through the Port Townsend Police Department.

According to Faber, much of that federal funding is passed from the federal government to the state and it is the state that actually administers federal dollars to Port Townsend.

“That means those funds cannot be chopped off directly,” Faber said. “There is also existing Supreme Court precedent that federal funding cannot be stripped for not complying with immigration officers.”

While these practices mirror those passed in so-called sanctuary cities such as Seattle, the council decided to strike the word from this particular resolution to avoid unnecessary controversy.

“It lacks a concrete definition as it is currently being used by so-called sanctuary jurisdictions and it may imply proactive measures and protections the city simply cannot provide,” Faber said.

“It also has become a controversial term and may result in the controversy overwhelming what we’re actually trying to achieve here.”

The resolution focuses mostly on immigration and protecting undocumented immigrants.

Faber said the committee did that on purpose because that was the most pressing issue.

The resolution also reaffirmed the city’s protections of civil and human rights for residents and visitors “regardless of age, citizenship status, color, familial status, gender identity, gender expression, martial status, national origin, physical and intellectual abilities, race, religion, religious observance, sex, sexual orientation, military service status and source of level of income.”

While the February hearing on the first draft of this resolution brought in nearly 100 residents and hours of public comment, Monday’s meeting lasted two hours with only about 50 people in attendance.

Most public comment favored the resolution. However, Sandoval said city officials received plenty of emails throughout the drafting process that were not in favor of this resolution.

“When you take a stand you have to be willing to shoulder some risk,” said Mayor Deborah Stinson.

“I think this is something we can shoulder at this point.”

The full resolution is available in the agenda packet at http://www.cityofpt.us/.

________

Jefferson County Editor/Reporter Cydney McFarland can be reached at 360-385-2335, ext. 55052, or at cmcfarland@peninsuladailynews.com.

Paula Martin of Port Townsend steps away from the podium after speaking in favor of the “Welcoming City” resolution passed by the city council Monday night. (Cydney McFarland/Peninsula Daily News)

Paula Martin of Port Townsend steps away from the podium after speaking in favor of the “Welcoming City” resolution passed by the city council Monday night. (Cydney McFarland/Peninsula Daily News)

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