Richmond City Council supports federal government help for child refugees
on September 17, 2014
Richmond leaders called on the President and Congress on Tuesday to welcome rather than deport child refugees who are fleeing violence in Central America and flooding into the United States.
A unanimous City Council passed the symbolic resolution at their meeting, which calls on President Barack Obama to stop deporting the children by granting them refugee status. The resolution also supported congressional funding for humanitarian care, and rejected expenditures on the “militarization of the border.”
“Our communities, congregations, labor unions, schools and community-based organizations have a long history of welcoming children and families fleeing violence, with compassion and support services, and of advocating for refugee and immigration rights,” said Mayor Gayle McLaughlin, who cosponsored the resolution.
More than 66,000 apprehensions of unaccompanied immigrant children were reported at or near the southern U.S. border from October 2013 to August 2014, according to U.S. Customs and Border Protection – an 88 percent increase over the previous year.
Most of the children have fled home countries torn by violence and economic instability. President Obama declared an “urgent humanitarian situation” in June and directed federal agencies to respond to the crisis and ensure the children receive proper care.
Symbolic resolutions are regularly floated by the City council. In recent years, the council has taken a stance on issues as varied as Israeli-Palestinian violence, the financial crisis and public pension investments in fossil fuel companies.
Members of the public in attendance on Tuesday evening generally favored the resolution.
“I am really glad that they passed it,” said Kristen Pursely, a teacher at West Contra Costa Adult Education. “It’s a moral issue. We can’t directly change U.S. policy, but you can at least make a statement.”
Pursely also said Richmond has a history of accommodating refugees from Southeast Asia and should continue this tradition.
But one resident questioned whether the council should be spending time passing symbolic resolutions, when the city has more pressing local concerns, such as a budget deficit and ongoing crime problems.
“Why are we wasting our time and energy on trying to decide national policy?” Richmond resident Don Gosney asked the council. “When Joe Biden wakes up tomorrow morning, he’s not going to be looking at the Washington Post, trying to figure out what they did in Richmond last night to try to decide what direction he’s going to go.”
City Council member Jael Myrick disagreed with Gosney, however. “It is not necessarily going to be the deciding thing that changes the White House’s action on it,” Myrick said.
“It is something our local individuals and our local families need to understand that the city is looking upon. So the City of Richmond is standing with you and the City of Richmond is standing with these children.”
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