• Eugene Weekly Loves You!
Share |

City of Eugene Human Rights Commission drafts 'Sanctuary City' resolution

People filled chairs, lined walls and sat on the floor for the duration of the special meeting of the city of Eugene Human Rights Commission (HRC) on Monday, Dec. 5. Professors, public school teachers, community members and activists were vocal in their concerns for undocumented people in their communities, classrooms and schools.

The special meeting was held in response to a large turnout at the commission’s November meeting to hear from the public and to discuss the designation of Eugene as a sanctuary city in the wake of the discriminatory language and anti-immigration fear tactics that marked President-elect Donald Trump’s bid for the White House. 

Around 100 people attended the November meeting and several testified in favor of a resolution and an ordinance, according to commissioner and co-chair Ken Neubeck. 

The sanctuary city resolution draft declares: “The city of Eugene be a sanctuary city that protects the civil and human rights of its residents regardless of their immigration status, national origin, race, ethnicity or religion.” 

Based on those criteria, city offices, resources and funds, which includes the Eugene Police Department, would be barred from providing federal agencies with a registry or maintaining a list or surveillance of city residents based on political views or social activities.  

Before roughly 40 people spoke at Monday’s meeting, Neubeck reminded the audience that the proposal would not expand anyone’s rights or provide anyone with special rights. Immigration enforcement is carried out by the federal government and Oregon law 181A.250 forbids law enforcement from collecting or maintaining specific information related to the “political, religious or social views” of individuals, groups, businesses, corporations or other organizations unless it pertains to a criminal investigation. 

Furthermore, ORS 181A.82 states that no Oregon law enforcement agency can use moneys or resources to apprehend anyone “whose only violation of law” is being “present in the United States in violation of federal immigration laws.”

Public comments ranged from condemning white supremacist beliefs that threaten the mental health and safety of minorities to a reverend speaking on behalf of protecting the unhoused. Carmen Urbina, who has long worked with the local Latino/a community, became emotional as she recalled speaking to mothers about their concerns and “beautiful white babies attacking beautiful brown babies.” 

Members and activists of the LGBTQ communities reiterated discrimination fears felt by non-gender-conforming persons. Several people suggested adding and including sexual orientation language to the resolution. 

Former HRC member Phil Carrasco organized individuals and community groups for the special meeting to aid in passage of the resolution, which had been drafted by a workgroup of HRC and community members.

The resolution and the ordinance passed unanimously. Neubeck says the soonest the resolution would go before the Eugene City Council would be Dec. 12, but the earliest date for a public hearing on the ordinance declaring Eugene a sanctuary city would be Jan. 17, 2017. He’s confident the ordinance will be passed, but not before Trump’s inauguration on Jan. 20. 

Several people urged attendees to write letters to the editors of Eugene publications. “Clearly the community is moved and upset with what is being stated about the deporting of undocumented immigrants and also providing sort of a registry of Muslim residents whether they’re immigrants or not doesn’t seem to make any difference,” Neubeck says.  

He adds: “It’s going to be very important that people continue to come out to public comment before the City Council so the City Council can see the range of depth of sentiment. They want to know who wants this; they want to see that it’s people from all over the community.”