CRCOG hears from residents about refugees, immigrants’ rights

At the Centre Region Council of Governments General Forum meeting last month, a suggestion was made that the executive committee consider a resolution on supporting refugees and immigrants’ rights.

On Monday night, the executive committee offered a motion that didn’t go as far as some members of the General Forum would have liked.

The motion on the table was for the General Forum to ask the Centre Region municipalities to individually consider adopting resolutions expressing support for equity and inclusion.

Several of the Centre Region municipalities, including State College and Halfmoon Township, have already adopted resolutions expressing support for immigrants, as have communities across the nation in the wake of President Donald Trump’s recent executive orders.

The executive committee, when explaining why it didn’t draft a regional resolution, cited several points, including: people living in the Centre Region should be respectful; COG does not have police powers; COG was not established to comment on state or federal laws; and the municipalities have different views regarding recently adopted state and federal policies and finding common ground might be “challenging.”

What ensued was an hourlong discussion among COG members and community residents about what should be done.

The residents who spoke favored a resolution from the regional governing body that stood by all members of the regional community, regardless of nation of origin, religion or immigration status.

Ezra Nanes, of State College, brought the issue to the General Forum’s attention at its January meeting, and he spoke again Monday.

He said it’s up to COG to set the tone for the other municipalities, and urged the body to consider the weak and those who cannot help themselves.

Laura Helton, of State College, brought up the anonymous posters recently hung up on Penn State’s campus, encouraging people to turn in anyone suspected of being in the country illegally to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

State College borough Councilman Evan Myers said it’s a regional issue because there is an international community here.

If COG has no other legislative power then to make a resolution, it should at least do that, he said.

Shoba Sivaprasad Wadhia, director of Penn State’s Center for Immigrants’ Rights, said over the past month she’s been a witness to the impact of Trump’s executive orders.

These policies affect everyone, not only those who are targeted, she said.

“Leadership at the local level matters,” Wahdia said.

Myers said he felt that the idea at the previous COG meeting to come up with a resolution for COG to pass was not followed and didn’t want to see that again next time.

Ferguson Township board Chairman Steve Miller said he opposed the motion because COG doesn’t typically ask municipalities to make decisions, it’s the other way around.

So he made a motion to indefinitely postpone the motion, which passed.

A motion was then made by Jeff Luck, Patton Township board vice chairman, to direct the executive committee to draft a resolution, not a motion, for the General Forum to vote on at its March meeting.

That motion also passed.