By ERIC A. HOWALD
Of the Keizertimes
Following an outpouring of testimony asking the Keizer City Council to urge city residents to vote “No” on Measure 105, the members of the council decided to meet the supporters halfway.
With a 6-1 vote on Monday, Oct. 1, and a modification to the text, the council took a stand against Measure 105, which would repeal a state statute prohibiting use of local law enforcement officers to investigate and apprehend individuals whose only violation of the law is they are undocumented. Statutes of its ilk are more commonly called “sanctuary” laws.
“We are protecting those people whose only violation of the law was that they are here undocumented. I think it is important that we as a city take a stand based on the values of the people who elected us,” said City Councilor Roland Herrera.
Herrera, Councilor Marlene Parsons and Mayor Cathy Clark joined forces to put the issue on the council’s agenda, something of a rare occurrence in recent years. The original resolution called on all Keizer voters to vote “No” on the measure, but a change to merely opposing the measure – suggested by Councilor Bruce Anderson – likely garnered additional votes from Anderson himself and Councilor Kim Freeman.
Before voting on the resolution, members of the council had to determine whether they could act at all. In 2003, members of the then-council passed a resolution stipulating that future councils could only take a position on state and federal matters when “they affect the City of Keizer residents or city operations, including, but not limited to operations and duties in the areas of land use planning, utility service, law enforcement, local policy and budgetary roles.”
The only member of the audience to speak on that specific aspect of the discussion was Keizer resident Richard Walsh, himself a former city councilor. He contended Measure 105 fell squarely within the narrow parameters in which the council is allowed to take a position.
“We have been trying to get the Hispanic community to engage with the city, to report when they are victims and when they witness crime. I spend a great deal of time as an attorney trying to help clients understand that they can’t be deported in Oregon if their only violation is being undocumented. 105 will take that protection away and it will set us back decades,” Walsh said.
Councilor Laura Reid said the numerous residents who offered testimony supporting the resolution made it clear that 105 would affect the city.
“We’ve heard very clearly tonight that this does affect our residents and 105 addresses whether the city’s law enforcement officers should be in the business of enforcing immigration law,” Reid said.
Freeman and Councilor Amy Ryan both opposed taking up the resolution when it came to a vote.
“When we assert ourselves as a body it should represent all residents and we need to trust our citizens to vote according to their opinions and values. I don’t think we should move forward because it’s divisive,” Ryan said.
A motion to take up the resolution passed in a 5-2 vote, Freeman and Ryan voted no.
When it came to deliberations, Councilor Marlene Parsons said she’d spent many of her waking moments pondering her stance even though she was one of the councilors to bring the issue forward.
“I was on the bubble, but this will affect all citizens and especially the undocumented residents. We have to protect our residents. Thank you for coming tonight because you helped me figure this out,” she told the large audience in attendance.
Prior to making the change from urging residents to vote “no” to simply opposing Measure 105, Freeman appeared to be leaning against the resolution.
“I don’t believe it’s my role to tell people how to vote. I think it’s a bigger conversation and should include more than just the residents here tonight,” Freeman said.
Reid said opposing 105 created a space for a larger conversation for all Keizer residents.
“I believe that this is the beginning of the conversation, and if we don’t stand up to protect our citizens we can’t have that conversation. This ensures that both sides will have a place in that conversation,” she said.
“Over many months, many years, we’ve seen a need to engage in this conversation and [this discussion] has opened the first step in affirming that we want to have it, and to be clear that we value and respect every resident of this city,” Clark added.
Ryan suggested that there was a lot of misinformation in the testimony provided to the council, but did not call out specifics.
“Measure 105 is [on the ballot] because 109,000 Oregonians said it should be there. A conversation has two sides and goes both ways, but this is not a balanced conversation,” she said, referencing the lack of testimony opposing the resolution. Only one person spoke against the council taking a stance on the issue.