Little Washougal – For One Evening, the Center of the Universe on Illegal Immigration

OK, I’ll admit it; this article’s title is classic hyperbole. Just the same, the August 2nd standing-room-only (SRO) meeting of Washougal, Washington’s (population = 13,807) City Council was pretty interesting.

The driving force behind the inflated attendance at this Washougal City Council Meeting was that word had gotten out about The Columbian notifying the Washougal City Council that “20 to 30 illegal alien advocates” planned to attend the meeting, with their intent being to speak during the Public Comments portion of the meeting, “to get Washougal to repeal (its) resolution in support of the Arizona immigration law.” FYI – The resolution in question was passed, by a vote of 5 to 2, by the Washougal City Council on July 6, 2010. Essentially, the resolution was to “encourage State Representatives” from Washington’s 15th and 18th Legislative Districts to sponsor legislation “similar to the Immigration law recently adopted in the State of Arizona.” You can check out the full text of this resolution for yourself at http://is.gd/e0GPu.

My Wife, Ruth and I were in attendance at the above-mentioned meeting. Our primary purpose in attending was to support what the Washougal City Council had done, in passing the resolution in question. So, it would be inappropriate for me to claim a lack of bias on this topic. Eventually, the City of Washougal will make the Minutes of this meeting, along with a Video recording of the meeting, available at http://is.gd/e0Ina, so you can check that out for yourself too. In the interim, you may also want to check out The Columbian’s report on this – http://is.gd/e0Kv8 – please don’t “dis” them just because they misspelled my last name. Anyway, with the immediately preceding qualifiers in mind, I’d like to add my/our observations on this event.

Although last evening’s Washougal City Council Meeting was scheduled to start at 7:00pm, Ruth and I arrived prior to 6:30pm, in order to get good seats. When we arrived, around a dozen others were already present. It appeared that these were all “fellow-resolution-supporters.” In fact, based on the volume of applause (though discouraged) and other observations I made during the meeting, my very unscientific guess is that the mix of the SRO crowd was around 80% Supporters versus around 20% Opponents.

Washougal’s Mayor, Sean Guard, launched the meeting promptly at 7:00pm, with everyone in attendance participating in the Pledge of Allegiance. Following that, Guard made some statements that, mostly, seemed aimed at “sucking the air out of the room” on the topic of the Immigration resolution. First, he announced that, though it hasn’t typically, been adhered to, he was imposing his ruling for last evening’s meeting that only two speakers per side – i.e. two Supporters and two Opponents – would be allowed to speak on any topic. Then, he went on to note that his stance on the resolution had become wishy-washy (my words) because, though he does support the enforcement of (immigration) laws in place, he felt that he had “blown it” by not actually reading the Arizona law prior to voting on the resolution.

Although Mayor Guard’s opening statements seemed to result in some frustration, on the part of public attendees as well as that of City Council Members, it seemed to me that there was still plenty of “air” remaining “in the room” on the topic at hand. Six public attendees (three Supporters and three Opponents) took their turn at the podium and each of the City’s seven Council Members added their observations to those of the Mayor. Especially since the City of Washougal will be making the Minutes and a Video recording of this meeting available, rather than attempting to report what was said by each speaker, I think it may be most helpful for me to offer some summary observations, along with some commentary on what I saw as the more significant highlights:

First, I want to say that the most meaningful comments from any of the six public attendees who spoke came from a gentleman whose family legally immigrated to the United States from what was then West Germany, at the end of WWII. In fact, as he left the podium, he received a standing-ovation. In addition to what this man said, the reaction of the majority of the other public attendees – i.e. the standing-ovation – stand as evidence that the concern of Supporters on this issue is about Illegal Immigration and that they are not anti-Immigrant, racist, etc. This was, also, reflected in the strong observations of the City Council Members who, in addition to Mayor Guard, had voted in favor of the resolution in question. These are Jon Russell, who drafted and sponsored the resolution, along with Jennifer McDaniel, Rod Morris, Dave Shoemaker and Michael Delavar.

Frankly, I didn’t think that any public attendees, who were speaking as Opponents, or the two dissenting City Council Members, made any meaningful comments in opposition to the resolution itself. Instead, they either questioned whether taking up such a resolution is appropriate for the Washougal City Council or they spoke about the need for Immigration Reform. Although neither of these lines of discussion were “on-point” for the subject at hand, I do feel it’s appropriate for me to offer my observations on the points that were raised in this regard.

Washougal City Councilwoman Molly Coston was the first to voice her opinion that she had voted against the resolution because she didn’t think that this was a matter that was within her purview as a City Council Member, in terms of looking after matters that are the City’s business. On the surface, that argument seems to make some sense. Certainly, the City Council should be most interested in what is going on within the City Limits of Washougal. But, it imposes artificial limits as though Washougal existed in a vacuum … as though it isn’t adjacent to Camas or part of Clark County or part of Washington State, etc. To me, it makes as much sense as saying that Washougal should only concern itself with the portion of the water in The Columbia River that is immediately adjacent to Washougal at any given moment, ignoring the impact on that water of what may be going on upstream in Skamania County. Actually, when Coston concluded her remarks, I made a comment to the person next to me that I think offers an even better illustration of the error to her perspective. The person seated to my right was a Veteran of the Korean War who had driven nearly three hours from Tacoma to express his support for the Illegal Immigration resolution passed by Washougal. When Coston finished speaking, I turned to him and whispered, “When you put yourself in harm’s way in Korea weren’t you doing it for all of us?”

Washougal City Councilman Paul Greenlee took the same absurd position as Ms. Coston and he added to it some comments that seemed aimed at beating up on his fellow City Council Members, who had supported the resolution, for inappropriately taking up a partisan issue. Both City Council Members Russell and Shoemaker took time for rebuttal of this point of view and very effectively dismantled the straw-man Greenlee was attempting to set up with his line of commentary. Russell, most appropriately, pointed out that Greenlee has a history of encouraging the Washougal City Council to take up partisan issues including Global Warming and Domestic Partnership. Apparently, with Greenlee, it’s only inappropriate for the Washougal City Council to take up partisan issues if they’re ones he doesn’t favor. And, just as poignantly, Shoemaker pointed out that if the Washougal City Council didn’t take up partisan issues, they wouldn’t have much to talk about. For me, Mr. Greenlee’s approach was the typical one of a “Progressive”, in attacking the Messenger when they don’t have an effective way to attack the Message. It was particularly disappointing, though, to see a City Council Member doing this to his colleagues.

Regarding the issue of Immigration Reform, though it wasn’t “on-point” it was the issue addressed by most of the public attendee Opponents. The challenge with this is that it is a topic that sorely needs attention. I’d be surprised if there wasn’t unanimous agreement among all attendees that this is so. However, the subject at hand was Illegal Immigration and in my opinion, we need to address that first and then turn our attention to Immigration Reform.

Finally, though Immigration Reform was not “on-point” at this meeting there was one perspective offered on this that, again, seemed to make sense on the surface but which actually falls apart when you consider it a bit further. Ironically, it was a view expressed by Washougal City Council Member Michael Delavar, who supported passage of the Illegal Immigration resolution. Michael suggested that Disneyland serves as a good metaphor for how we should deal with Illegal Immigration/Immigration Reform. He pointed out that, at Disneyland, when they turn off the rides at the end of the night, the people go home. Of course, this is a good illustration that “the rides” – i.e. the attraction, is an issue that needs to be addressed. In the case of Illegal Immigration/Immigration Reform, “the attraction” includes things like decent paying jobs that aren’t available in Mexico, the demand in the U.S. for illegal drugs, etc. Assuredly, “the attraction” needs to be dealt with in this regard. However, with significant influence from my Wife, I realized that the Disneyland metaphor doesn’t really hold up. In fact, it serves as a better metaphor in support of the Illegal Immigration resolution passed by the City of Washougal. You see before making our home in Clark County, WA, our home was in Orange County, CA … where Disneyland is located. For me, that was home for over 25 years. For Ruth, it was her home from the age of five. Of course, that means we’re pretty familiar with Disneyland and that includes having friends and family who have worked there. In fact, Ruth’s first job out of high school was at Orange County’s #2 attraction, Knott’s Berry Farm. Anyway, our level of familiarity with Disneyland led us to realize the following:

  •  It is true that, at the end of the day, when they turn the rides off, the people leave Disneyland. However, those people were in Disneyland that day because they paid to get in.
  • Ironically, when you pay for admission to Disneyland, you buy a “Passport” to the Magic Kingdom. Doesn’t that sort of sound akin to meeting the requirements of Legal Immigration.
  • In my 25+ years living in Orange County, I never heard even once of anyone sneaking into Disneyland. Ruth, who is the next thing to being an Orange County native, has never heard of such a thing either. Why do you suppose that is? Unquestionably, it’s because of Disneyland’s Security. Although it is low-key to the point of not being noticeable, Disneyland’s Security is as effective as any that you’ll find in a public venue.

 So the Net on this is: Disneyland’s daily visitors are there because they met the entrance requirement, they go home at night because they adhere to the restrictions of their Magic Kingdom Passport and these things are enforced by Disneyland Security, who secure “the borders” of the Magic Kingdom. Now, there is a good metaphor for our nation on the topic of dealing with Illegal Immigration.