By David Izraelevitz and Chris Chandler
Los Alamos County Councilors
Our fellow Councilor Pete Sheehey prompted a spirited community discussion about law enforcement, community values, and the roles and responsibilities of our local government when he brought forward a resolution at a Council session last week focusing on the treatment of immigrants and refugees in our community and nationally.
Many community members spoke up during that Council session, and even from the dais, we could feel the intensity of feeling and personal attachment to the subject. We are proud that the discussion was overall civil and thoughtful, and based on this discussion Council eventually decided to make that evening the beginning of a conversation, not the end. A subcommittee is now charged with reviewing the concerns elicited that evening, and we are confident that Councilors Sheehey, James Chrobocinski and Antonio Maggiore will bring back to the full Council a thoughtful path forward based on the results of this meeting.
The purpose of this letter is to contribute to this conversation some thoughts that were not presented by us that evening. Sometimes words spoken are not as precise as those written, sometimes silence is interpreted as acquiescence rather than politeness and respect for the views of others.
We believe strongly that a primary responsibility of local government is the protection of persons and property. The enforcement of all laws of the land is how a modern society maintains that responsibility, and we take this charge seriously, whether that involves enforcement of immigration laws or any other lawful responsibility of our police officers. Similarly, we also take very seriously our responsibility to protect the constitutional rights afforded to all persons present in our county. Some of these rights are enjoyed only by citizens or other U.S. persons, but some rights are offered to any person in our land, and the equitable and fair enforcement of the law is also a fundamental value of our society. Especially given the history of our community and its international make up, we want to offer a welcoming place to those legally here from all nations, those who are working here and their families, and those visitors from around the world who come to the birthplace of the nuclear age.
We understand that the world is torn by dangerous and violent movements. We see Los Alamos as the vanguard in technology and science that contributes to making America strong and able to protect its people. We also understand and share our compassion toward those seeking refuge on our shores from the strife in their home countries brought on by those forces of evil.
The words we share in this letter are not at odds with our local values, or in fact, those of thousands of welcoming communities across our great nation. We don’t believe that expressing these values in any
way diminishes our standing with respect to the larger governance of our nation; rather, we believe it is enhanced. In fact, a fundamental right enjoyed by us, in contrast to those of so many other nations, is
the free expression of our thoughts, our moral obligations, and our sympathy toward our fellow man, in the confident knowledge that it is our American privilege to do so without the threat of punishment or forced passivity.