On a 2-1 vote, the Port of Vancouver Board of Commissioners passed a resolution Tuesday urging elected officials and federal representatives to immediately stop separating children from families at the U.S. border with Mexico.
The commission’s resolution acknowledged the necessity of a secured border and the rule of law, but described the practice of separating children from their families who enter the United States illegally as causing “needless trauma and does not reflect the spirit of American values. Therefore we … call upon elected representatives and federal leaders to do everything in their power to immediately stop forceful separation of children from parents by the Department of Homeland Security.”
That resolution was offered by Commissioner Eric LaBrant as a modification of a resolution originally proposed by Commissioner Don Orange.
Orange announced his resolution during the new business segment of the meeting in a voice strained with emotion.
“The board of commissioners of Port of Vancouver urge federal government to immediately stop separating children from their families at our border,” he said. “This is cruel and inhumane. This is child abuse. This does not come close to the values that our citizens hold dear. This needs to stop today.”
LaBrant and Orange both approved the motion.
Several members of the public who attended the meeting also spoke in support of Orange’s initial resolution.
Commissioner Jerry Oliver opposed it. He said doing so was “awkward and difficult” for him, but he argued the responsibility of opposing the federal government’s actions fall to individual citizens, not to the port.
“I will concur with Commissioner Orange that what we witness is an abhorrent practice,” he said. “Where does it stop? I can think of the abhorrent practice that I’m aware of every single day that goes on right here in Clark County with the murder of unborn children, when they are vacuumed out of their mother’s womb and torn apart — that is an abhorrent practice. … But I ask our commission, is it our responsibility as a commission — not as individuals but a commission — and where does that responsibility end? Should I next propose a motion to our state Legislature that they outlaw abortion and call about a conflict with the federal government?”
LaBrant said he understood Oliver’s concerns, but felt it was important to take a stand on the issue.
“Honestly, I don’t know that that’s necessarily within the port’s wheelhouse,” he said. “On the other hand … in terms of living with my conscious, it’s hard to look at a tragedy like that and not feel compelled to speak up publicly.”
After the meeting, Orange described the situation as “a moment in history” when “people need to speak up.”
“They say they separated the kids from the parents at Auschwitz, too,” he said. “I hope other people like the city council stand up too.”
Tuesday’s was the one and only commission meeting the port will hold this month.
U.S. House Republicans have drawn up two different migration bills, amidst growing public outrage over the Trump administration’s decision to implement a zero-tolerance immigration policy, which has resulted in thousands of children being separated from parents after illegally crossing into the U.S. from Mexico.
Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler, R-Battle Ground, said she supports both versions.
In a statement to The Columbian, Herrera Beutler said, “Family separation should not be U.S. policy.”