Kennewick City Council Shows Tri-City’s Troubled Past with Immigration Issues

March 30, 2015 8:27 am
by David Jakeman

Kennewick immigration attorneys and their clients who have paid close attention to immigration issues in the past would know that the recent Pasco shooting is not the beginning of challenges for the immigrant community in the Tri-City area. Like many places in the United States, immigration has been a hotly debated topic in Kennewick. A look at the past half decade is illuminating about just how difficult of an issue immigration can be.

Past Kennewick Events

Back in 2009, the Kennewick city council took up some ideas from resident Loren Nichols, who wanted the city to crack down on undocumented immigrants. The political climate around immigration has always been a difficult issue, but the crackdown advocated by Nichols was not something that should have been given as much consideration as it was.

Even though the council turned down Nichol’s proposals, it did not come out in strong opposition. Instead it hedged, using legalese to explain why it couldn’t take him up on his advocacy. It is understandable that Kennewick city council members tried to take the political positions that were the least likely to anger either side of the debate; They are, after all, politicians. But the lackluster support for the protection of immigrants sent the message to the undocumented immigrant community that the council was not that supportive of them.

Kennewick Immigration Interpretations

One city council member said that they couldn’t deport undocumented immigrants because it fell beyond the purview of the city’s authority. The city only has jurisdiction of misdemeanors, and violations of immigration laws fall under federal authority. Other aspects of law enforcement would have to be enacted by the state, which was not really a possibility for Kennewick to enforce.
Another city council member expressed his opposition by arguing that Nichol’s ideas trespassed on constitutional issues. The city didn’t want to wade in on such issues. The mayor supported these interpretations, but didn’t add much to them. The city council said they came to the decision after consulting the advice of the Kennewick city attorney.

What Was Left Unsaid

What was sad about this interaction was that public officials did not go on the record in large support for the undocumented immigrant community of Kennewick. The silence spoke volumes, and it in many ways sent the message that immigrants weren’t fully welcome. It’s easy to understand why the city council members didn’t want to speak too much, in part trying to not give someone like Nichols more ammunition for his anti-immigration crusade.

Kennewick immigration attorneys know better than most the ways in which immigrants face feelings of not being accepted in their community. We must do better in helping immigrants feel comfortable in their new communities. Such support helps strengthen the overall city and allows them to feel safe going to authorities when there are real problems. City officials can play an important role in making this happens.