SALEM — The ballots have been cast, the votes have been counted, and sanctuary stands.
Voters supported a City Council ordinance that made city policy regarding undocumented immigrants into city law, 6,756 to 5,030, according to unofficial results.
Speaking as most of the results were in Tuesday night, Yes On 1 chairwoman Tanya Stepasiuk said she was "grateful to the voters of Salem for affirming the values of this city, because this ordinance keeps Salem safe and welcoming."
"We hope this helps the Safe Communities Act on the state level, especially with the continued anti-immigrant sentiment on the federal level," Stepasiuk said. "We need to come together with our neighbors here. We're looking forward to all of Salem coming together. We know people have different views, but we all know we love and care about this city."
The City Council voted 7-4 in March, and again in April, to pass the “Sanctuary for Peace” ordinance, which affirms that police officers and other city officials will not ask about immigration status or seek proof of citizenship from anyone in need of service. After the ordinance was passed, opponents of the measure gathered signatures of 12 percent of registered voters to put the issue as a voter referendum on the fall ballot.
The ordinance mirrors existing policies that remain unchanged regardless of the vote’s outcome, which itself became a line touted by supporters as a reason why it isn’t dangerous, and by opponents as a reason why it shouldn’t be considered.
Supporters of the ordinance say it makes the city safer by giving undocumented immigrants in Salem peace of mind, so they can call in a fire or report a crime without fear of being deported. Opponents say it was unnecessary, because it didn’t change city policy, but argued it could draw unwanted attention from federal authorities, who might choose to target Salem immigrants or try to punish the city by denying grants.
The matter sharply divided the city in recent months and was a main campaign issue in several contests on the ballot, including the mayor’s race.
Of the four initial dissenting votes against the ordinance, only two of the City Councilors — Councilors-at-large Elaine Milo and Arthur Sargent — managed to land enough votes to stay on the City Council. Councilor-at-large Jerry Ryan finished sixth in the eight-person race for four seats, while Ward 3 City Councilor Stephen Lovely was dropped in an upset by first-time challenger Lisa Peterson.
While an opponent of the ordinance, Lovely also served as legal representation for the petitioners in their quest to put the issue on the ballot in May and June.
While those might be seen as wins by the supporters of the ordinance, there were two losses equally — Ward 4 City Councilor David Eppley, who was running at-large, finished fifth, while running mate Jeff Cohen, chairman of the city's No Place For Hate committee finished last. Eppley and Cohen were central figures in the drafting of the ordinance.