MUSKEGON, Mich. — Hours before the Muskegon County Board of Commissioners was scheduled to consider a resolution to affirm the county as welcoming to immigrants, commissioners voted to remove the resolution from the meeting agenda.
According to Commissioner Marcia Hovey-Wright, who introduced the resolution, she made the decision to add the word “legal” before “immigrant” in the resolution to appeal to the Republican commissioners who claimed the resolution would be the first step to making Muskegon County a sanctuary county.
In order to give the resolution time to be reviewed by the county attorney, Hovey-Wright and Commissioner Susie Hughes decided to remove the resolution from the Tuesday meeting agenda.
Hovey-Wright said she hopes the legal review will be completed in time for next month’s meeting.
“This has nothing to do with sanctuary cities. That was made up,” Hovey-Wright said.
Still, she said the only way the resolution will get bipartisan support is to change its language.
Hovey-Wright said adding the word “legal” to the resolution “takes a lot of power out of it.”
She said the goal for the county is to be a diverse and welcoming county that respects the innate dignity of all people, including immigrants.
The resolution says there will be community efforts that promote understanding and collaboration between native-born and foreign-born community members.
You can see the resolution here.
According to a flyer shared with us by residents, becoming a Welcoming County is just the first step toward becoming a Sanctuary County.
In the resolution, the commissioner says Muskegon County is home to organizations led by and serving immigrants and refugees.
Despite the resolution being tabled for now, residents overflowed the county commission meeting room into the hallway well before the county commission meeting started at 3:30 p.m. Many said they came to give public comment on the resolution.
“I couldn’t believe they actually wanted to welcome more illegals in here. There’s just been too much problems in sanctuary cities,” said resident Sandy Johnson, who opposes the resolution. “I’ve just heard too much negativity and I don’t think it’s good for Muskegon County. We have enough homeless already. We don’t really need more people who sponge off the government. That’s how I look at it.”
The county encourages businesses, civic groups, schools , government agencies, and other community institutions to make Muskegon County a welcoming and diverse place for new residents from other counties.
On its Facebook page on Monday, the Muskegon County Republican Party encouraged people to contact their commissioner to let them know their thoughts on the resolution.
Progress Michigan, a progressive marketing department issued the following statement by its executive director Lonnie Scott on the resolution:
“Passing a resolution to make a city more welcoming to immigrants and refugees is the first step in embracing diversity and valuing the dignity of people who want to call Michigan home. There is a growing Latinx community on the West side of the state, and in these times when families are worried about being separated, Muskegon should swiftly pass this resolution and tell its residents that they value them, no matter the circumstances.”
The man who wrote the resolution, Don Munski, said adding the word “legal” weakens its original intent.
“I think the problem with adding ‘legal’ is that it differentiates us and that’s not necessary and it’s now about legal or undocumented people being in the country,” Munski said. “It’s about welcoming everyone because there are people in this community who are discriminated against and they have been longtime members of the community.”
Munski said he sees a need to brand Muskegon County as a welcoming place to all people.
“There is racism in Muskegon County, unfortunately but that’s reflected only because it’s all in the world and in the United States we have racism,” Munski said.