An NPR member station
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Spokane Council Approves Ordinance Banning Immigration Questioning In Intermodal Center

Doug Nadvornick/Cable 5

UPDATED Tuesday 3 pm 

The Spokane City Council last night [Monday] voted to forbid federal immigration authorities from questioning and arresting people in the city’s Intermodal Center, unless they have a warrant from a judge.

The six-to-one vote came after more than two-and-a-half hours of testimony from people in a packed council chambers. An overwhelming number, many of them people of color, testified in favor of the measure. It was approved as an emergency ordinance, which means it takes effect immediately.

The ordinance was paired with a resolution that declares the Intermodal Center as a non-public property. That means immigration agents would not be allowed to randomly question people within the building or on the center’s grounds.

Councilman Breean Beggs says the measure sends a message to the federal government. He says agents claim they don’t explicitly profile people of color when they question people on buses and in the Intermodal Center.

“It’s true that when they go on a bus, they stop everyone. Everyone gets to experience armed agents interrogating them a cramped space, against their will as they come in," Beggs said. "But how they question them, who gets more questions, who gets detained, that’s where either implicit or, in this case, intentional racial profiling comes to pass. That’s really not our city.”

Only a handful of people spoke against the ordinance. The lone vote against came from Councilman Mike Fagan, who spoke about immigration in general.

“I would tend to say that there’s a right way to do it and a wrong way to do it. And that is another reason why Border Patrol agents and ICE do the functions that they do is because there are still people out there that do it the wrong way," Fagan said. "So I’m not going to support this ordinance tonight, not at all.”

On Tuesday afternoon Mayor David Condon issued a statement saying the council's vote "provides a false sense of security for vulnerable individuals." Here's more of his statement:

“Federal law says that such federal officials may ‘within a reasonable distance from any external boundary of the United States … board and search for aliens in any vessel within the territorial waters of the United States and any railcar, aircraft, conveyance, or vehicle…’ Reasonable distance is further defined as a 100-mile distance from a U.S. border. Operationally, these agents don’t seek permission or consent from a local elected official or municipal employee to complete their assignments, so neither the Mayor nor City employees have the authority to impede such activity."