In February, I attended a council-sponsored meeting at the Church by the Side of the Road to discuss a recent incident. A resident of Tukwila called for police support with good reason to believe that his undocumented immigration status would not be an issue. Unfortunately, it appears that the police department made process errors, the individual was detained and may now be facing deportation.
Shortly after the meeting, a television station asked if I cared to comment. I declined as I was jarred by what I heard and unclear how I felt. Emotions were intense and all over the place. Later I realized that it was perfect that people had the opportunity to share how they felt and what they thought. It was also perfect that the Tukwila Police Department was present to listen and to explain what had happened. I am skipping past the details as I recall them. There is pending litigation. We will see what comes out of that.
While I was uncomfortable and unsettled at first, I came to appreciate the intentions of the council in arranging this opportunity for conversation. It is critical to hear and respect the fears, the anger and the views of community members and to take them into account. When mistakes happen, the perfect solution is to turn back the clock so that those mistakes do not occur. Absent that, any other consequence is imperfect and subject to opinion. Those who are paid to make legal and policy decisions will try to accommodate the feelings and views of victims and community members; eventually, they may have to substitute their judgment for the passions of the moment. If so, the decision-makers should explain the rationale. The public deserves to know.
In situations like this, it is possible that people forget the larger picture. The Trump administration is pressuring cities and police departments to act as an arm of Homeland Security in seeking out and detaining undocumented immigrants. Some communities support this point of view and do so. Our city supports the idea that everyone deserves to feel safe. People who call for help should not expect their immigration status to be an issue. This expectation is not something to which we are entitled. It is a choice of our community. Those with criminal warrants can expect something altogether different.