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West Valley City Journal

Community-made resolution supporting city’s immigrant population gets council’s attention

Jun 02, 2017 10:22AM ● By Travis Barton

Isael Torres voices his support of adopting a resolution stating WVC will not enforce immigration laws during a city council meeting in April. (Travis Barton/City Journals)

By Travis Barton | [email protected]
With the national tenor concerning immigration and cities across the country publicly stating they will not assist in enforcing immigration laws, it should come as no surprise the issue would rear its head in West Valley City.
The city serves as one of, if not the, most racially diverse cities in the state. South Salt Lake passed a resolution that stated immigrants were welcome in their city. Salt Lake City, Park City and Provo have all expressed similar sentiments adding they will not enforce the removal of immigrants from their cities.
That’s exactly what Luis Garza, executive director of West Valley City-based Comunidades Unidas (Communities United), wants from WVC officials.
“We are asking the same thing of West Valley City,” Garza said. “Can the most diverse city in the state issue an official statement and say we are behind our community?”
Garza made that comment shortly after a city council meeting in April where dozens of residents (from both WVC and other cities) voiced their desire for city officials to pass a resolution saying both city police and staff will not use city resources “to assist in the enforcement of federal immigration law.”
The resolution was created and brought forward by those community members present.
Mayra Sedano, community engagement manager with Comunidades Unidas, told a story of a time when she answered the door of her house to what she thought were city police, but were actually immigration officials.
“From first hand, I’ve experienced the trauma, the sadness of being separated from a loved one,” Sedano told the city council.
Passing any resolution or ordinance requires a public announcement process before the city council addresses the item in a study meeting one week prior to voting on the issue in a city council meeting.
City officials said they felt WVC’s track record on the subject demonstrated it had no intention of enforcing immigration laws, but were open to drafting and approving a vetted resolution on the topic.
Elected officials and Police Chief Lee Russo met individually with Sedano and Garza during May to discuss the resolution they proposed.
“We’ve had some pretty good conversations with them so we’re definitely making some progress,” Garza said on May 22.
At press deadline, Mayor Ron Bigelow, along with each city councilmember and city staff were working on a resolution to properly assuage the community’s concerns. They also hoped it reflected the previous work done on the subject including documents and policies implemented by the city since its inception.
“I think it will help us and all our community members if they feel they can approach our police without the fear they will turn them in,” said Councilman Lars Nordfelt during the May 9 study meeting.
Though the operations of immigration officials fall outside the city’s control, city officials feel it’s important for victims of crime to contact police regardless of their immigration status.
“We want people to be able to seek out help and not be afraid of our police department…if you’re a witness or a victim or even suspicious of a crime, we want you to be able to report that,” said Councilman Steve Buhler.
Councilman Steve Vincent added, “of all the things in the resolution I think that’s the most important.”
Buhler said the resolution doesn’t change the city’s approach but it’s important for them to be responsive to the community in their care.  
“Once we see the final draft,” Garza said. “Then we can get an idea on whether many of the things that we put in there and requested will be actually put into the resolution.”