As numerous cities across the U.S. begin to take action against recent federal deportation measures, the Metro Council joins the list of administrations rebuking the measures by reaffirming support for immigrant communities, as well as all diverse communities throughout the region.
The Metro Council voted unanimously March 2 in support of a resolution, introduced by Councilor Kathryn Harrington, that reaffirms Metro’s support for “stability, opportunity, safety and justice for all people living in the region.”
“It’s moments like this one today – of solidarity and support – that fill me with hope and inspiration,” said Abdulah Polovina, an Imam at the Portland Bosniaks Educational and Cultural Organization, who spoke in front of the Metro Council. “It reminds me that despite how bad things are around all of us, there are good people with beautiful hearts and open arms ready to challenge negativity and stand shoulder-to-shoulder.”
During the meeting, Polovina talked about his own experiences as a European immigrant who came to the United States in search of better opportunities.
“Silence is not optional anymore,” Polovina said. “We need to be together in this and work together with all people – representatives, the Metro Council, City of Portland, State of Oregon.”
Other speakers supporting the resolution included Washington County Commissioner Greg Malinowski, and Harrington's husband, Beaverton City Councilor Marc San Soucie. In January, the Beaverton City Council passed a resolution declaring that Washington County city to be a sanctuary city.
Despite opposition from critics, San Soucie says that the community has shown their support in a variety of ways since adopting the sanctuary city label.
“We’ve had responses in emails, letters, postcards, things like that,” said San Soucie. “Our experience in Beaverton – entirely positive.”
Malinowski also provided his support during the meeting as well and shared a story about an incident that took place at Terra Linda Elementary School in the Beaverton School District, where someone distributed fliers with racist and sexist content at an after-school community meeting.
“People do have freedom of speech, but problem is, some folks follow up with desecrating cemeteries and doing other things,” Malinowski said.
Though the resolution stopped short of declaring itself a sanctuary city, Malinowski says he appreciates the Metro Council moving forward with the resolution in order to make the community feel safe. Malinowski adds that he wants people to feel comfortable and safe calling the police in case of an emergency.
“For law-abiding residents and the community, I just think it’s important to remind them that we’re not going to be hunting them down and using trickery to get them to open the door,” Malinowski said.
Metro Council President Tom Hughes said that while the Council can’t do much about the tone or rhetoric of the federal government, there is something that the regional agency could do in response.
“What we attempt to do in this particular resolution is to unite with our friends and colleagues in those jurisdictions who are confronted with this issue,” Hughes said. “To assure them that we are in solidarity with them on their attempt to make a clear statement that this part of the world is safe.”
In the last month, Immigration and Customs Enforcement made arrests throughout Oregon, including in Multnomah County and in areas near Woodburn and Sandy.
“It’s unfortunate that it's come to this, but I'm very pleased that our regional government is showing the dignity and respect and stewardship you all did,” said West Linn Mayor Russ Axelrod.
Harrington, who pushed the resolution that passed unanimously, said the motion is dedicated not only to the regional community, but Metro employees and customers as well.
“To me, this affirmation reflects what Metro stands for and our regional values,” Harrington said. “Not what we’re going to be doing, but what we already do and will continue to do.”