By Gonzalo Garcia & Lorenzo Oloño
On Monday, Feb. 27, the Salem City Council unanimously passed an inclusivity resolution that declares that “the use of city funds, personnel or equipment for the enforcement of federal immigration law is prohibited.”
In other words, Salem police are prohibited from aiding or informing federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents, bringing some peace of mind to undocumented families.
Although this may seem like a win for the undocumented community, this measure stopped short of declaring Salem a full fledged Sanctuary City.
Unlike the inclusivity resolution, a Sanctuary City resolution is likely to meet opposition. Conservative Salem City Councilors Brad Nanke and Jim Lewis both voted for the inclusivity resolution on the grounds that nothing new was being proscribed, but that current city policy was simply being reaffirmed.
This stance came on the heels of 2 1/2 hours of testimony, nearly all of which was for the resolution. Nanke in particular stated that he would have a problem taking the extra step because it would come in conflict with the rule of law, or a breach of current immigration law.
Nanke was not the first to mention the rule of law. Two Salem residents, who provided the only testimonies against the resolution, were the first to bring up the issue. One resident used the analogy of wanting to keep their doors locked at night.
CLA Professor Eisenberg, who also attended the Council meeting, stated that this analogy borders on irrelevancy by eliminating the historicity of immigration police.
Many well meaning supporters of the inclusivity resolution argued for it by stating the importance of undocumented labor. Despite the truth that undocumented labor plays a vital role in the local and national economy, these arguments are often turned to as default positions when debating immigration issues.
Arguing whether a person or group is worthy of being in the country based on their productivity reduces them to a laborer, rather than also considering their human rights.
The dynamics within the city council can be considered emblematic of what is going on in society at large, in which marginalized folks are primarily supported in fashions that keep the internal structure of society in place, no matter how discriminatory these structures may be.
Even with pleas from undocumented Salem residents asking for relief, Nanke and Lewis are hesitant to do more than uphold existing city law. It is crucial now, more than ever, that our elected representatives and allies confront the difficult issues faced by marginalized people.