The Dignity Vigils: 63 Weeks and Counting

Dignity Vigils began in February of 2017 in response to Bellingham City Council ignoring community members who asked for a real Sanctuary City ordinance to be passed. Instead, on February 13, 2017 Bellingham Council passed an ordinance that does nothing to protect affected communities. Every Monday, community members come together to stand in solidarity with undocumented and immigrant families and people. In addition, we come together to stand against law enforcement and federal immigration collaboration which leads to deportation. You can find more information on Keep Bellingham Families Working here. The following post was written by Dena Louise in response to the 63rd Dignity Vigil.

63 weeks of Dignity Vigils and Bellingham City Council Member Dan Hammill was present for his 3rd out of those 63.

63 weeks of Dignity Vigils and the Bellingham City Council has still not strengthened the ordinance that shoved aside the Keep Bellingham Families Working Ordinance that had been created to effectively protect our immigrant and undocumented community members from persecution. 

63 weeks of Dignity Vigils and there is still no citizen oversight to help ensure that no collaboration between local law enforcement and Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) occurs that can result in the persecution of immigrants who are our community members and neighbors, persecution that can include repeated and ongoing: general harrassment, investigation, court dates, apprehension, separation from family members, indefinite incarceration, abuse within immigration prisons, and/or deportation. 

63 weeks of Dignity Vigils and Google searches on ICE yield pages upon pages of fresh news everyday about ICE destroying lives of immigrants and their friends and families and community members all across the nation. 

63 weeks of Dignity Vigils and Council Member Hammill wants to know what vigil attendees want, after all the comments and petitions and letters and face to face input that Council Members have received since November 2016 (that included many which directly addressed specific changes sought to the Council's ordinance that the Council voted to approve on February 13, 2017) and have continued to receive for the weeks and weeks and weeks after the Council voted to adopt their ordinance.

63 weeks of Dignity Vigils and Council Member Hammill says he is attending both as a public citizen and as a City Council Member and wants to know what we want without offering any indication he is attending Dignity Vigils with the intent to take action upon his constituents' needs.

63 weeks of Dignity Vigils and fresh in our memories is Council Member Murphy walking by vigil attendees two weeks earlier and angrily blowing off the offer to give her a flyer about issues effecting farm workers. 

63 weeks of Dignity Vigils and fresh in our memories is Council Member Lilliquist walking by on the 62nd week of Dignity Vigils, passing by the assemblage of community members, passing by the altar to honor Cesar Chavez on the anniversary of his death, passing by with no words or actions of his own to show respect for this great defender of immigrants and farm workers. 

63 weeks of Dignity Vigils and fresh in our memories is the absolute absence, week after week, of Whatcom County Council action to adopt an ordinance to protect members of their community who are immigrants and undocumented, a refusal to act which has been especially memorable after we community members approached them in the summer of 2017 asking them to propose an effectively protective ordinance.

63 weeks of Dignity Vigils and, yes, still fresh in the memories of we community members who came to meet with City Council Members and present the Keep Bellingham Families Working Ordinance, is the work group meeting 61 weeks ago where our ordinance was shoved aside in favor of one proposed by the Council, the workgroup where assurances were made that a forwarded copy of the Council's draft ordinance would be sent for we community members to review before the Council presented their ordinance for a vote, that draft copy finally arriving at 3 p.m on the day that Council Members voted unanimously to approve the Council-created ordinance that shoved aside our ordinance. 

63 weeks of Dignity Vigils and fresh in our memories is the people's condemnation of Bellingham City Hall on the 53rd week of Dignity Vigils, the week of Dignity Vigils where we said:

"Community to Community Development and the Whatcom Civil Rights Project have been, for years, bringing complaints, bringing evidence, talking to the Whatcom County Sheriff and the City Council and other Council Members, telling them that there was continuous, ongoing racial profiling happening. And from this racial profiling, other exploitations grew. And it was ongoing, and it was institutionalized, and we were volunteering and offering our support to change this. 

"And it built up, and built up, until the moment when we had enough support to write and present an ordinance, a legal document that was the beginning of a possible dynamic change within this government to protect these communities in the right way, in the proper way, in the dignified way, as the way our country is supposed to function. These democratic systems are supposed to function to represent us! 

"The City Council and the County Council are not clubs. They're not social groups. They are not bureaucratic mechanisms to implement bureaucracy already written into city governance. They are not administrators. They are not like county clerks. They're not supposed to be a submissive agent of the Mayor or the County Executive or the County Prosecutor - handing them a document and they say, 'this document is written this way, implement it.' No! They are elected leaders from different districts, elected by voters to represent, to bring to the city government the issues that matter to their constituents, and even possible solutions to what is happening in the neighborhoods and in the different districts of the city."

And we said:
"Kelli Linville..., we talked to her and said that the Bellingham Police Department, that there are officers in the Bellingham Police Department that are racially profiling people, and she immediately jumped and said, 'No! There is no racial profiling in the Bellingham Police Department.' And we said we have people that have suffered that racial profiling based on color, especially brown people who are immediately identified as undocumented and ICE is called. She said, 'No, that does not happen in my Police Department.'"

And we said:
"We stand by our belief in our position because we see it happening, that this is a white supremacist government. We don't believe that every single person in this building, working in this building is a white supremacist or racist, but the leadership has developed an institutionalized, a culture that dehumanizes the most vulnerable in our community. At the core of everything is a dignity of every single person in this city and the respect that we demand when we bring our complaints, and the dignity within the solutions they give us, not the disdain that we have been shown."