Olympia adopts ‘sanctuary city’ resolution in response to presidential election

The Olympia City Council unanimously approved the resolution Tuesday, Dec. 13.
The Olympia City Council unanimously approved the resolution Tuesday, Dec. 13. The Olympian

Olympia has been officially declared a sanctuary city that will serve all residents regardless of immigration status.

The Olympia City Council unanimously approved the resolution Tuesday, nearly five weeks after the U.S. presidential election. President-elect Donald Trump’s campaign rhetoric has generated fear and concerns about deportation and federal immigration policies once his administration takes power.

In addition to serving all residents in the city, the resolution also promises that Olympia “will not inquire upon a resident’s immigration status in providing municipal services or in the course of law enforcement.”

The city will instruct employees to refuse any request from a state or federal agency about a resident’s immigration status, according to the resolution.

It also calls for the city to refuse any requests that are related to federal immigration policy enforcement.

“Olympia has a proud history of recognizing the dignity and human rights of all people,” said council member Jessica Bateman, who led the resolution effort.

Echoing a request by a local resident, Mayor Pro Tem Nathaniel Jones recommended that the resolution be distributed to other jurisdictions in the region as an example to follow. He reiterated that the City Council is nonpartisan.

“We don’t represent any particular party,” Jones said.

Many people in the audience stood and applauded after the council approved the resolution Tuesday night.

“As soon as the election was over, I wondered if Olympia would do something like this,” resident Kathleen O’Shaunessy told the council, noting that she has seen “a lot of tears and anxiety” among the undocumented college students and children of immigrants whom she counsels. “I’m proud to live in Olympia. This should be a relief for those families.”

Steffani Powell, an immigration attorney in Olympia, said the resolution sends a message of acceptance and respect to the city’s immigrants and refugees.

Powell told The Olympian that questions from immigrants and undocumented residents have increased dramatically since the presidential election. Powell said she is unsure how to advise families on issues such as applying for the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, which exempts participants from immigration enforcement.

“Now I have to say no,” she said of applying for DACA. In the meantime, she recommends that undocumented families keep a low profile until a clearer picture emerges on federal immigration policy.

Last month, the council passed a resolution that reinforces “Olympia values” such as diversity, compassion and inclusiveness.

The council also supported the Olympia Charter for Compassion, which was drafted by leaders of Olympia’s faith community in response to recent hate crimes and race-related violence in the area.