The City of Bellingham has its first-ever Immigration Advisory Board in place. Ten community members were appointed by Mayor Seth Fleetwood and confirmed by a vote of City Council on Monday, Feb. 24.
The new Immigration Advisory Board (IAB) includes: Bridget Reeves, Katie Winkelman, Danielle Siedlecki, the Rev. Seth Thomas, Maria Isabel Cortes-Zamora, Ramon Barba Torres, Jahn Zuniga Escobar, Ada Rumford, the Rev. Rick Qualls and Liz Darrow. Monica Cassidy will be appointed at a future date.
“I'm pleased to have appointed these outstanding community members, willing to serve in this important capacity," said Mayor Fleetwood. “Their work will help inform our policies and practices and to ensure that Bellingham is a welcoming place for all."
The IAB was created by Council ordinance on Nov. 4, 2019. The ordinance begins with the declaration that “all people are valued [and] should be afforded dignity and respect regardless of… immigration status, national origin or ethnic origin."
The purpose of the new board will be to review and evaluate existing City policies and make specific recommendations to the Mayor and City Council regarding policy related to immigration matters. The board's evaluation will include analysis of City data to determine compliance with Washington State law as well as recommendations for further data in order to facilitate its work. The IAB will also support community involvement in and discussion of regional issues and decisions about the City's future, regarding immigration. By policy, the Bellingham Police Department (BPD) does not enforce civil immigration law nor respond to immigration-related incidents, except in cases involving criminal investigations. (BPD has utilized assistance from federal law enforcement, notably in investigations related to human trafficking, child pornography/sex offenses and felony narcotic offenses.)
"As a Council member and as a community member, I am concerned about the public health and safety of all residents of Bellingham," said Councilmember Hannah Stone.
“My hope is that the new Immigration Advisory Board will publicly recognize the contributions of immigrants here in Bellingham and help ensure equal access to all City services - irrespective of one's immigration status."
The IAB includes representation from each of these vital sectors of the community:
- directly impacted individual/liaison;
- human rights advocacy;
- immigration law/civil rights legal;
- labor – service industry;
- labor – agricultural industry; and
- business/economic development.
The Immigration Advisory Board's first meeting will be 6 p.m. Tuesday, March 24 in the Mayor's Boardroom in City Hall, 210 Lottie Street.