After Heated Debate, California Town Rejects Becoming Immigrant ‘Sanctuary’

After a heated municipal meeting that even required police to show up to quell tensions, officials of Riverside, Calif. rejected a proposal this week to declare the city a sanctuary for immigrants.

The proposal, in the form of a non-binding resolution by Councilman Andy Melendrez, called for the city to support humanitarian assistance for recent immigrants, as well as not take actions that would delve into the federal matter of immigration.

Some members of the council who opposed the resolution said it seemed to step into federal territory, and that the expression of support for immigrants was not necessary.

“We have been a community that has always been a beacon for that, and I believe that our community still is,” Melendrez said, according to the Press Enterprise.

Melendrez said the proposal would have not called for any government funding, and said he had not expected opposition by council members to the resolution.

Supporters of the resolution argued that it was important, given the reaction of another city just 35 miles south, Murrieta, to the potential arrival of Central American immigrants to a Border Patrol facility located there.

Murrieta made national headlines when large crowds staged protests, saying they did not want the immigrants bused into their city. They expressed fears that they would stay in Murrieta, and would drain local resources.

Mayor William “Rusty” Bailey said the city already had its “statement of inclusion.”

Councilman Steve Adams, who voted against the resolution, said:  “I agree with the compassion. I disagree with breaking [immigration] rules.”

Members of the public went before the council to express support and opposition to the resolution. It got so tense at times that an altercation even occurred outside the municipal building, ending with an arrest, according to the Press Enterprise.

The resolution spoke about the importance of honoring Riverside’s "longstanding culture of embracing diversity."

It added: "Riverside supports humanitarian efforts for treatment of all individuals including recent immigrants to the United States."

Some supporters of the resolution said it was important, in light of Murrieta’s highly publicized rejection of the Central American immigrants, to affirm compassion.

“I would really like to see the city of Riverside take leadership and say, ‘These are people and these are human beings and I welcome them,’” said Fernando Romero of the Justice for Immigrants Coalition of Inland Southern California.

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