08/15/2017: "Council Preempts A County Wide Vote On Enforcement Of Illegal Immigration Laws"
( Initiative supporters Eleanor Hoague & Sharon Arndt answer Council questions Tuesday - SJC Screen Grab )
The County Council held a public hearing on Tuesday to take public comments on a San Juan County Citizen’s Initiative that, in many respects, mirrors actions taken by some states and cities to not enforce, or cooperate with federal officials, on laws related to illegal immigration.
The unofficial adopting of a county wide policy of not enforcing, or cooperating with federal officials in the enforcement of laws against illegal immigration was first formally discussed by the county council in January. At that time promulgated guidelines as outlined by Count Prosecutor Randy Gaylord held that Illegal Immigrants Okay Here As Long As They Follow All Other Laws.
Following that view, a local citizens group collected enough signatures to place Initiative 2017-7 on the November ballot.
The initiative spells out in detail an official policy of -in simple terms- that county government is not to investigate or cooperate with federal law authorities in enforcing immigration laws.
By July the County Council decided to hold a public hearing on the topic to decide if the council was, or was not in support of the initiative as presented, and if in support, did they want to suggest changes to it, or pass it as presented.
The law governing initiatives gives the county council the right to get involved by passing, or altering, the text of an initiative. If they pass it as presented, then it becomes part of local code and will not be subject to a vote. If they change any of the language, then both the altered version and the original language moves forward to the voters.
On Tuesday the County Council asked Prosecutor Gaylord to address the topic, and he began by giving a history of how the county had got to this point, and noted in passing that because the council had taken so long to hold a hearing they now would have to act, and as a result they would not have the luxury of time to discuss the public input and express their views -if any- for suggested changes.
Almost everyone who commented on the initiative was from Orcas and Lopez and spoke in favor of the initiative, and asked the council to pass it so it would not go to a vote. The repeated rational was it was “the right thing to do,” and it “was obvious from the support” for the initiative that it would in any case be passed if voted on.
After public testimony was closed it quickly became apparent that the council was of one mind to pass it, and voted unanimously to do so.