MUSKEGON, Mich., (WOOD) — Tensions were high at a Muskegon County Commission meeting Tuesday afternoon over a resolution on the agenda proclaiming the area a “welcoming county.”
County Commissioner Zach Lahring, a Republican from Ravenna, posted a flyer to Facebook indicating it was the first of three steps to making the area a so-called sanctuary county. The post helped to draw a huge crowd of upset residents to the meeting.
The commissioners started the meeting with a motion to remove the item from the agenda for further review. Residents were advised they would no longer be able to address the issue during the originally slotted time but many waited until the public comment portion to voice their concerns.
“I want to feel safe in this county, not less safe in this county,” one woman said at the podium. “You’re bringing this violence into our community. This is a shame!”
Many of the residents who took to the podium spoke about concerns of welcoming “illegal immigrants who will bring crime.”
“Why, unless there was an alternative motive, would a commissioner want Muskegon to become a place of filth, fecal matter, disease,” one woman started, “when the mission statement you swore to uphold includes serving the community interest of its citizens?”
County Commissioner Marcia Hovey-Wright, a Democrat from Muskegon who endorsed the resolution, said the outrage was rooted in misinformation.
“If you read it (the resolution), there was nothing about sanctuary city,” she said.
She went on to say the idea was more like rebranding and that the resolution would not include any binding policy changes.
“It makes a statement that we’re wanting to be welcoming,” she added.
>>Online: Read the resolution
Several attended the meeting in support of the resolution.
“When I first saw the statement, I thought, ‘Wow! This could be really good.’ Then I saw all the backlash,” resident Ana Olson said.
She said it is clear to her that the ideas shared in the meeting are rooted in racism, as much of the focus was only on immigrants from Latin American countries.
“It’s based on looks. I’m not carrying my papers ever,” she said. “But (the term) illegal immigrants has a picture.”
“It’s disingenuous to exclude one group of people,” Michelle Burley said as she stood next to Olson in agreement. “Why welcome anyone at all if you’re going to welcome only certain people?”
Many who were against the resolution say they don’t understand the need for it unless there was ulterior motive.
“I think this is just going to be the start of a slippery slope,” Steve Peterson said. “You bring out the welcome wagon and then what services are you going to provide?”
The board voted to send the resolution back to committee to review the language and legality.