After weeks of delay, Burien City Council members will vote tonight on an ordinance designed to protect some of its most vulnerable residents. Like Seattle's sanctuary city ordinance, Burien's ordinance 651 would declare the city a "sanctuary" for undocumented immigrants.
More than three dozen cities across the country that have previously designated themselves as sanctuaries have reaffirmed their commitment to protecting undocumented residents in the wake of Donald Trump's xenophobic presidential campaign and his promises to deport millions. But Burien's ordinance would be the first of its kind in the city, and would prohibit Burien city employees, including police, from asking residents about, or requesting documents regarding, their citizenship status.
"For me this is primarily about public safety and the community feeling free or safe to interact with the officials that they see without fear of deportation," Burien City Council member Nancy Tosta told The Stranger. "We have a lot of crime challenges in our city, including two recent shootings, and I think the more we can figure out how to have community policing the better off we'll be."
This isn't the first time council members have taken a vote on designating Burien as a sanctuary city. On December 19, the council voted in favor of the ordinance, 3-2, but the Burien city attorney later notified council members that the vote was invalid. According to the city attorney's office, the City Council had to win a majority of council member votes, and two council members—Burien mayor Lucy Krakowiak and Deputy Mayor Bob Edgar—had left the meeting before it concluded.
Tosta, one of the council members who previously voted for the ordinance, said she found the mayor and deputy's behavior "irresponsible." According to Tosta, Krakowiak and Edgar have not stayed for meetings that have run late before. "There isn't anything I can do to avoid that [this time] other than encouraging the mayor and deputy mayor to understand their responsibility in putting this in the community," she said.
Mayor Krakowiak and deputy mayor Bob Edgar did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
"Burien has all this language in their mission statement and vision statement saying we embrace diversity and multiculturalism, but there's nothing in legal language that makes it so our population is safe," Burien resident and local activist Roxana Pardo Garcia said. "Hate crimes are starting to become more visible because of this election. Unfortunately our city council does not represent the demographics of the city, so it's difficult for them to understand that a lot of people don't feel safe reporting crimes to the police."
Burien City Council member Debi Wagner, who previously voted against the sanctuary city ordinance, told The Stranger that the ordinance "has stirred a lot of controversy in our town," and that she didn't want to comment before tonight's vote.