Vail Daily column: Dignity, respect for all
December 28, 2016
I'm writing this column to make sure our community members are aware of the two resolutions that have recently been passed unanimously by the Avon Town Council and the Eagle County commissioners, with the support of the Eagle County sheriff. These two resolutions are a little different in their wording, but unified in their purpose: to assure all of the members of our community that local governments will continue to perform their duties as they have in the past, treating all people with dignity and respect. Both resolutions emphasize a commitment to provide exemplary services to all residents, regardless of race, national or ethnic origin, gender, sexual orientation, mental or physical disability, religious or political opinion or activity, immigration status, or homeless status.
You might ask, "Why is this needed if the intention is to continue the provision of services (including law enforcement) as was done in the past?"
The reason is that as a result of the recent national election cycle, there is a growing fear among many in our community that they will be singled out and identified as "unwelcome" people here in the county, and perhaps even identified for deportation if undocumented. And that this might be carried out by local law enforcement.
The town of Avon's Resolution on Civil Liberties states, among other things: "In the absence of state, interstate or international criminal or national security investigations, the town of Avon does not actively participate in the enforcement of federal immigration law."
The town of Eagle Board of Trustees has yet to consider a similar resolution, however, its police chief, Joe Staufer, has released a statement that says, "The mission of the town of Eagle Police Department will not be altered by perceptions which suggest local law enforcement officers focus on immigration status. Our officers will not engage in detaining and questioning anyone living in our community based on immigration status, as immigration is a federal responsibility. Our officers will continue to follow procedure which prohibits contacting anyone living in our community with the sole intent of ascertaining legal status in the United States."
The town of Avon, the town of Eagle, and the county government — and their law enforcement arms — have worked hard over the years to build trust and cohesion within our multi-national communities. This trust is key to encouraging everyone to feel free to report criminal activity, to seek assistance and/or medical help, and otherwise share information that is in their best interest and that of the community, without fear of retribution.
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Does this make the towns and county "sanctuaries?" No. Any individual committing a felony cannot expect protection from local, state, or federal laws. But law-abiding people living in our county — regardless of immigration status — can rest assured that they will be protected by the U.S. Constitution as has been determined by the United States Supreme Court many times over the years.
While undocumented immigrants do not enjoy all of the rights granted to citizens by the constitution (for example, the right to vote, and to bear firearms), the courts have ruled that, while they are within the borders of the United States, undocumented immigrants are granted the same fundamental, undeniable constitutional rights granted to all Americans.
Many of the families in our valley have family members of different nationalities as a result of where they were born. And many children have earned "Dreamer" status under the current DACA program. I remain hopeful that our federal government will develop, approve, and implement a rational immigration policy that will relieve the anxiety produced by the existing policy for these families.
In the meantime, every law-abiding member of our community should be respected and made to feel welcome here, as our community draws its strength from the multi-culturalism that exists in the valley.
Our valley is dependent on our immigrant community members as a result of their diligent work performed every day in many of our businesses. It is a fact that the valley could not operate without the participation of this important segment of the community. It is important for them to know that we support them, respect them, and have their backs in this turbulent time. I hope that other town councils in the county will join the town of Avon and the Eagle County Commissioners in considering and approving a resolution similar to the ones they passed.
Steve Coyer has lived full-time in Avon since 1999 and has been deeply involved in children's educational issues throughout the valley. He is a former chair of The Youth Foundation (now called YouthPower365) and currently serves on the Vail Valley Foundation Board of Directors and its Education Committee.
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