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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Spokane City Council refuses to place immigration initiative before voters

It will take a judge to place a proposed ballot initiative on immigration on the ballot, even though supporters collected enough signatures to qualify.

The Spokane City Council refused on Monday to move forward with an initiative that would overturn the council’s 2014 decision restricting city employees, including police officers, from inquiring into an individual’s immigration status.

City Council President Ben Stuckart said city legal staff recommended taking a pass on the initiative because Jackie Murray, who filed the petition for the initiative, has since asked the city not to move ahead.

Despite Murray’s change in position, other supporters completed the work of collecting signatures and turned them in. The Spokane County Elections Office certified last month that supporters collected enough signatures to qualify for the November 2017 ballot.

Stephanie Cates, vice chairwoman of the Spokane County Republican Party, testified that the initiative should be put before voters so the will of the people can be heard.

But Alfredo LLamedo, of Spokane, called the proposed initiative racist and xenophobic.

Activist David Brookbank, who opposes the initiative, testified in Spanish. Councilman Mike Fagan argued that Brookbank should not be allowed to testify in a foreign language, but Stuckart allowed him to continue.

Supporters of the law barring inquiries about immigration status argue it strengthens public safety by allowing immigrants in the United States illegally to report crimes without fear of arrest and deportation.

Opponents argue it turns Spokane into a “sanctuary city” and encourages lawlessness.

After testimony Monday, Fagan failed to receive a second for his motion to place the initiative on the ballot. Fagan plans to make another attempt to put the initiative on the ballot later this month.

Last week, Stuckart said if the council declined to place the proposal on the ballot, supporters could file a lawsuit that could force the city to move ahead with a vote.

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