Push to put Yakima's immigration policy into ordinance

YAKIMA, Wash. -- Advocates want the city of Yakima's policy not to inquire about a person's immigration status to become a legally binding ordinance.

The Yakima Herald-Republic reports they worry the existing policy could change in the future and say an ordinance will ensure that it won't.

That argument has gained traction with the City Council, which last week passed a measure to begin crafting a draft ordinance.

The move comes after weeks of debate over officially designating Yakima a "welcoming city." That resolution, a less explicit version of an earlier proposal to adopt a sanctuary- city designation, simply asserted that Yakima employees do not discriminate based on a variety of factors including race, gender or immigration status. It failed 4-3, with council members Avina Gutierrez, Carmen Mendez and Dulce Gutierrez voting yes.

But advocates kept pressing the issue at subsequent council meetings, finally presenting a citizens petition this past week with more than 3,200 signatures in favor of a welcoming-city resolution.

While the petition was accepted, Dulce Gutierrez said it was apparent a council resolution was dead and the issue unresolved. "I'm still concerned about the expressed worries and fears that have continued," she said.

The fear is that police will question the immigration status of those reporting crimes and then notify federal immigration authorities. Police, however, say they don't ask — because if they did, crimes would go unreported and important information needed to solve crime, such as eyewitness accounts, would be more difficult to obtain.

For those reasons, advocates call the proposed ordinance a matter of public safety.