Basalt council ponders ‘safe harbor’ message on immigration status, religion, sexual orientation |

Basalt council ponders ‘safe harbor’ message on immigration status, religion, sexual orientation

Basalt officials will consider tonight if they want to send a message affirming that the town welcomes all people regardless of race, sexual orientation, religious beliefs or immigration status.

The Town Council will consider a resolution “declaring and affirming Basalt, Colorado’s, commitment as a ‘safe harbor’ to build a diverse, inclusive and just community ensuring equal protection and services for all residents.”

Mayor Jacque Whitsitt said the resolution was proposed by the mayor’s cabinet, an advisory citizens’ committee that meets monthly to discuss topics of civic interest.

“We’re sending a message to the community that we’re safe for all,” Whitsitt said.

The resolution says that Basalt authorities are committed to upholding the law and providing protection and service to all members of the community, regardless of their identity or immigration status. It also encourages people to cooperate with law enforcement officials about any known criminal offense with assurance their own immigration status won’t be an issue.

“Basalt, along with a growing number of U.S. cities, has reaffirmed its obligation to further the interests of citizens by urgently implementing humanitarian immigration policy that aims to keep families together while respecting human rights,” the proposed resolution says in its declarations.

It was unclear prior to tonight’s discussion how making a commitment as a “safe harbor” differs Basalt, if at all, from declaring itself a “sanctuary,” as more than 200 local and state jurisdictions have done across the country. President Donald Trump has said his administration will withhold federal funds from sanctuary cities that refuse to honor Immigration and Customs Enforcement detention requests.

Basalt’s resolution says the town “reaffirms its local funds and resources to be used for the benefit and safety of all our citizens. Federal immigration laws regarding document status are to be handled at the federal level.”

Police Chief Greg Knott said Monday it doesn’t appear the resolution requires any change of policy by the Police Department. When the department issues a summons or makes an arrest, it isn’t checking on immigration status and it isn’t patrolling specifically to check on immigration status. If Immigration and Customs Enforcement wants a detainer on a person while its checks their legal status, that’s something that gets arranged with the jails, he said.

However, if federal authorities secure an arrest warrant from the courts for a specific criminal offense, the department will attempt to arrest that individual, Knott said.

He also wants to retain the department’s ability to be notified and present when Immigration and Customs Enforcement makes an arrest or takes action in Basalt. He said it is important for local police officers to be present to “calm” other residents of neighborhoods and assure people there isn’t a “roundup” underway.

The final provision of the proposed resolution would urge a change in the community’s vernacular. It proposes that immigrants be referred as “those who have migrated here from another country and to hereby adopt the language of ‘undocumented’ as the preferred term for those who do not have a federally recognized resident status.

“We choose to use only terms and definitions that represent fair and humane recognition of all residents,” the resolution continues.

Basalt’s regular council meeting begins at 6 p.m. The “safe harbor” resolution consideration is tentatively set for 7:10 p.m.

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