Immigration initiative heats up City Council chambers

Immigration initiative heats up City Council chambers

The gavel was hot Monday night inside the Spokane City Council chambers.

“This is what’s going to happen anybody who claps or outbursts,” Councilman Jon Snyder said. “We have an officer here, we will remove them from the chambers.”

That message came minutes after Council President Ben Stuckart slammed the gavel and ended the meeting as public testimony over a divisive citizens initiative began.

On the agenda, an initiative brought forward by Jackie Murray that would repeal a previous ordinance which prohibited city employees, specifically Spokane Police, from acquiring or ascertaining immigration status or any person.

Stuckart had asked the large group of people in the chambers to not clap or comment following any public testimony and, after several warnings, he called an end to the meeting and left the chambers. That caused an outroar from both sides of issue and one man even was asked to leave and escorted out of City Hall by by police.

Council President Pro Tempore Jon Snyder asked Stuckart if he could take the meeting over and Stuckart agreed, allowing public testimony to restart.

Those in favor of the repeal say they fear the law passed by the council is a violation of the Constitution and infringes on citizens rights. They asked the council why should anyone obey the law if a city government can pick and choose which law to enforce, and streesed how less safe they feel the community would be in a sanctuary city.

“You are tying not just the hands of the police but you’re putting the citizens at risk,” one man said. “You are violating the higher responsibility that you have. I urge you please to pass this tonight, if not let it go to the voters”

Those against the repeal feel every human should be allowed a chance to be in the U.S. and add America is a nation of immigrants.

“I applaud the council for making this a sanctuary city,” another individual said. “These are human beings, they are not illegal, nor are they aliens, aliens come from outer space.”

The council had two options Monday night, to pass the citizens ordinance, or to send to the people for a signature gathering and then a vote. After more than an hour of public comment, Councilman Mike Fagan made a motion to pass the citizen initiative, Mike Allen seconded it, but the motion failed 4-2.

Fagan then made a second motion to put the initiative straight to the ballot and bypass the signature gathering process, Allen again seconded and again the motion failed 4-2. With that the initiative now needs to get signatures from five percent of the registered voters to be put on the November ballot, if backers of the repeal want a special election they need 15-percent.

“The full weight of the Spokane County Republican Party will be brought to bear to get the signatures that will put this initiative on the November ballot,” Spokane County GOP Vice-Chair Stephanie Cates said during Monday night’s meeting.

The people of Spokane now wait to see if enough signatures will be collected to get the initiative on the ballot.