On July 9 Salem’s City Council passed a motion condemning the Trump administration’s “zero tolerance” policy along the border with Mexico and affirming the people of Salem’s sympathy for immigrant families who have been separated while lawfully seeking asylum. The motion also restated Salem’s identity as an inclusive, sanctuary city.
At the City Council meeting that evening, Ward 2 Councilor Tom Andersen brought the motion, 18-326. It resolved, in part, “The City of Salem shares in the outrage against our national government’s Zero Tolerance policy toward immigrants, including indefinite family detention,” and that the City, “supports and encourages the lawsuit to be filed by Oregon Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum jointly with other states’ Attorneys General challenging the federal policy.”
The motion also took issue with the current political chaos where, “Despite the President’s Executive Order to stop separating families, they will still be held in prisons and treated as criminals and there is no process in place for reuniting families that have already been torn apart by this policy.”
Finally, the resolution declared support for the decision by Governor Kate Brown to refuse to deploy the Oregon National Guard to the Mexican border.
Several community members spoke in favor of the resolution; no one spoke against it.
Salem’s Shelaswau Crier said that we “are on the precipice of a historical moment in our country… it stands to us as states, it stands to us as citizens, to stand with [immigrants] in solidarity.”
Paul Krissel of Salem expressed frustration at zero tolerance proponent’s, “talk about ‘entering the country correctly.’” The Trump administration, he said, “closed off access to the bridge where people could present themselves to request access to this country for asylum. This was a legal way to have access to this country. We’re cutting off access to people who are fleeing incredible violence and threats to their lives.”
Andersen referred to these and other citizen comments when he made his motion. “It’s important that at a local level, we do all we can,” he said. He reflected on a sign he carried at a recent rally, that asked, “What if it was your family?” He spoke about his own grandfather, who came to America from a foreign country, toiled at arduous farm work, never learned English and remained close with his foreign-born community.
“The difference,” Andersen said, “is he was from Denmark.”
Andersen noted that the unwelcoming actions of the current administration are “overwhelmingly against people who are black and browned-skinned… and that’s just not the way we should be.”
Ward 6’s Chris Hoy expressed his support for the motion. Hoy reflected on a profound July 4th experience he had this year at Washington, D.C.’s Lincoln Memorial, from where he watched the Capitol firework display. He suggested that President Abraham Lincoln would be dismayed by federal actions like the separation of families that result from the zero-tolerance policy.
Andersen’s motion, Hoy said, was “exactly relevant to our business here,” and added, “as a country, we are heading in a direction that I don’t like.”
The vote was nearly unanimous in favor, with the exception of Ward 3 Councilor Brad Nanke. Nanke objected to the Council considering “resolutions that really don’t pertain to our position as City of Salem government [and] city operations. ” Nanke advised the council that he would work to alter the body’s rules to exclude future motions like these.
After the vote, Andersen reflected on his motion. “We need to do everything we can at the local level to combat the malevolent, narcissistic, racist who is at the top of our government,” he said. “This resolution was one of many steps that have and will be taken. “