Pullman City Council approves welcoming city resolution

TYLER WATSON, Evergreen reporter

The city council voted 6-1 to make Pullman a welcoming city for immigrants Tuesday.

The vote comes at a tenser time for immigrants, which was culminated locally by a distribution of flyers targeting undocumented students by asking people on campus to report them to Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), as reported by The Daily Evergreen in March.

Prior to the vote, Police Chief Gary Jenkins voiced his concerns about the department’s policy regarding immigration status.

“We will only enforce criminal immigration warrants that are signed by a judge,” Jenkins said. “It’s not our practice to ask the person we contact their immigration status, with the exception of if there was information that gave us reasonable suspicion to believe the person had entered the US illegally.”

Officers become suspicious when they examine documents that appear to be forged or if ICE gave information on an undocumented immigrant to the department, Jenkins said.

Council member Al Sorenson, who is running for re-election in November, was the single dissenting vote.

“I’ve lived here since 1966. I teach at the university. I have a local business. I assure you that I’ve always felt that this place is a welcoming community, and so have my students and so have my customers,” Sorensen said. “Pullman, to me, has always been welcoming, regardless of whether this resolution gets passed or not.”

Nathan Weller, one of the authors of the resolution, emphasized the resolution only makes Pullman a welcoming city, not a sanctuary city.

“It reaffirms the current welcoming position of the city,” Weller said. “We are a welcoming city. This just puts it into words. This just puts it into writing.”

Weller also said previously, communities have gone further.

“This is not a revolutionary thing, ok, its relatively innocuous … harsher wording has gone back to 1987, at Oregon, 2003 Minneapolis,” Weller said. “The only reason it has taken a front-page type of topic is because of the current national environment, and that is what is worrying certain international people in our community.”

At the end of his speech in favor of the resolution, Weller gave a call to action.

“All the actions that we take from this point forward are up to us,” Weller said. “The document only says what our philosophy is, and so I encourage you, if it does pass, to take these words … and use them as a personal philosophy: be welcoming or continue to be welcoming.”