Monday, February 27, 2017

Salem City Council Passed The Inclusivity Resolution---An All-Peoples' Victory Won Through Unity

Salem City Council passed the inclusivity resolution offered by Councilperson Tom Andersen tonight with a unanimous vote. This is a great peoples' victory that was won through mobilization at the base---so many groups worked to turn out people to the City Council meeting, provide good testimony and do outreach to City Council members. The inclusivity resolution puts Salem on the list with a growing number of cities and towns which are effectively sanctuary cities, however broadly that is defined.

Forty-some people testified tonight, most of them speaking in favor of the resolution. It was clear that the opposition either couldn't do turnout or failed if they tried. Moving testimony came from DACA youth, teachers, hospital workers, two small businesspeople and the leadership of PCUN, Causa and Salem's Racial Justice Organizing Committee. Council members Cara Kaser and Tom Andersen did especially well tonight in moving the resolution through the Council process. Andersen may offer amendments at an upcoming meeting.

No one said it tonight, but this victory builds towards the womens' mobilization on March 8, Causa's important March 31 lobby day, and May Day. This victory gives everyone who helped get the resolution through the responsibility of holding Council to the right path and electing Council members who will stand with immigrants, youth, workers and LGBTQIA+ people in the future.

Two City Council members expressed reservations about the resolution and a few people spoke from the floor with some of the expected anti-immigrant talking points. The opposition takes the line that the resolution only repeats or copies what is already City policy and so refuses to acknowledge the context for Andersen's resolution. We heard the often-repeated arguments that the people without papers should get in line and wait their turn and that laws are being broken and the ridiculous comparison between undocumented people and bank robbers. And we heard from a few people who claimed that their having a spouse or an adopted child or grandchild or some other relative from another country somehow means that they can't possibly be racist or anti-immigrant---and then going on to make racist and anti-immigrant arguments.

Some illusions live on our side of the aisle as well. Some well-meaning middle-class white people see the immigration debate and the inclusivity resolution in moral terms while others see only legal issues to be resolved. Socialists see a third option: this is a political struggle with humanity at the heart of the battle. Our liberal friends see Trump and his backers as the problem, and they are correct in a sense, but we see a history of anti-immigrant sentiment and laws in the U.S., we're not willing to give the Obama administration a pass here, and we believe that the borders and immigration policies reflect systemic crises for capitalism. Our liberal friends see passing resolutions on inclusivity and sanctuary as victories in and of themselves, while we see these efforts as necessary steps in an unavoidable social struggle. The liberals are good with arguments uplifting morality, ethical business practices, and immigrants serving in the military. We're interested in political and social movements, abolishing capitalism and imperialism, building peace, and with leadership coming from people of color, women, youth, LGBTQIA+ people and workers. The liberals accept borders but we don't.

Whatever the lines are on our side of the aisle, let's let them be lines and not walls. Tonight's victory was won because immigrant rights groups, and Causa in particular, know how to build united front efforts. This is something we on the left need to relearn. Whatever our differences, our liberal friends are not our enemies.

Inclusivity and sanctuary are more about taking the right stand and laying the needed foundations for future progress than they are about solving concrete problems today. Still, the resolution will help solve some problems people face, and if it helps block the right-wing from using Salem as a base to attack Kate Brown from, and if it helps to relieve some of the panic spreading through immigrant communities without creating a false sense of security, then it is indeed a needed new step. We need to stay tuned in and aware of amendments to the resolution. We need to be prepared for a moment when the federal authorities will put a squeeze on and try to force a change. Most important of all, we need to be engaged in active and on-going organizing and resistance against Trump's policies---all of them---and be in solidarity with immigrant communities.

Photos from Causa.

1 comment:

  1. Great take. I would just add that among the many points I found relevant during the evening the argument on rule of law seemed to be the sticking point for the opposition. That is probably the only portion of their argument they are willing to share in a public forum. But I thought this was countered well by those who pointed out that many horrible things have been legal throughout history, and the one gentlemen, quoting MLK, that said we should be willing to go to jail in opposition of immoral laws.

    Of all the points you discussed that were brought by the opposition, I believe they were all brought to the floor by only two speakers, out of the total 45.