LETTER: Neighbor shares observations on Burien’s Sanctuary City status

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[EDITOR’S NOTE: The following is a Letter to the Editor, written by a Reader. It does not necessarily reflect the opinion of The B-Town Blog nor its staff:]

Dear Editor:

As a neighbor who monitors Burien government, the issue of Burien as a sanctuary city provides a lesson in citizen-led government. I have a unique perspective that might be of value.

Two summers ago, my 90-year old dad and I found ourselves dropping one of our boys and his friend on trailered dirt bike motorcycles at the Continental Divide near Antelope Springs, New Mexico, one of the most isolated border crossings along the Mexico-U.S. border. It was basically a small, flat, almost shrubless valley with 10,000 foot peaks a few miles both east and west. After we dropped the kids off at the Mexican border in the 100 degree sun, to start their one month Mexico-to-Canada dirt bike adventure, my staunch Republican dad and I started the 60+-mile drive north on the almost uninhabited and traffic-less road that headed back to an isolated section of Interstate 10.

In the middle of this desert, a young man appeared in the middle of the road, begging for help. His clothes were shredded, his shoes were in tatters, he was covered in filth, and he was clearly desperate. He could not explain where he was, spoke very little English, but clearly, his life was at risk if we were to leave him there. He told us his name was Pedro.

Being an Eagle Scout (Do a Good Turn Daily!), I invited Pedro into our air-conditioned vehicle to get out of the extreme heat. He drank all the water that we had, and then began to cry uncontrollably, thanking us in Spanish for “delivering him from death”. He could have been an illegal immigrant, I do not know. And I do not care. My job was not to determine his legal status in our country. He was already here. My responsibility was to help a fellow human being at great risk of dying in this isolated American desert. I was not going to leave him.

We fed him at the first restaurant we could find (he had not eaten in five days) we took him to Goodwill and Walmart, replacing all of his clothes and shoes, and from our broken discussions using a Spanish language app., we learned that he had a family address, written on a piece of paper, about two days north. As we were driving north already, we got him a shower, shared a two-day adventure with him, and delivered him safely to his family.

I had told my dad at the start that we would care for him, but that if we were stopped by law enforcement, we would not lie. We would explain exactly what happened, that we did not know his legal status, and then allow things to unfold as they may. But I was not going to apologize for saving this man’s life or taking him to his family. When we dropped him off, as we were driving away, my staunch Republican dad turned to me and said, “You did the right thing Mark!”

Fast forward; now, a group of Burien residents spent hundreds of hours collecting over 3,500 Burien resident signatures to ask for a vote on whether Burien should be a sanctuary city. What they are basically asking for is a public discussion on the issue and then have a vote in November to see how the Burien voting public feel about this issue. It does not require the Burien City Council to abide by the public vote, it just gives the public an opportunity to learn more about it, and weigh in.

A loud group, many of the same who filled the chamber on homelessness a few years ago, chanted and shouted down those who gathered the 3,500 signatures. This group are now doing everything in their power to stop this requested public vote. A quote from Thomas Jefferson that I have engraved on a sheet of metal in my yard, gives Burien direction on what to do here. Thomas Jefferson, the author of the Declaration of Independence, also wrote:

“I know of no safe depository of the ultimate powers of the society but the people themselves; and if we think them not enlightened enough to exercise their control with a wholesome discretion, the remedy is not to take it from them, but to inform their discretion”

This is a teaching moment for Burien. Approve the vote for November. Then have the sanctuary discussion. Then see how the voters respond. Now that would be an example of real democracy in Burien.

– Mark Ufkes
White Center resident

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13 Responses to “LETTER: Neighbor shares observations on Burien’s Sanctuary City status”
  1. Jennifer says:

    I appreciate that you helped this gentleman in New Mexico – it was definitely the right thing to do! You are wrong about the people at last nights meeting. I was one of them! I was born and raised in Burien. I am raising my own family in burien. I refuse to allow an outside for profit organization respect WA dictate what happens in my community! Craig Keller hired people to intimidate and manipulate people into signing this petition. I witnessed petition gatherers target elderly and (sadly) immigrants and use scare tactics to get them to sign.
    In the early part of the year our community came our strong in support of ordinance 651. The money that will be waisted going forward is on the shoulders of current council members (who clearly endorsed this petition by signing it) and Mr. Keller!

    • Mark Ufkes says:

      Thank you for sharing perspective. And I have read The Stranger article as well. The Stranger endorsed me when I ran for the Port of Seattle in 1999 by the way. I know Mr. Keller from almost two decades ago when I was trying to be a Dan Evans liberal Republican in West Seattle. But I left Republican politics long, long ago because of people like Mr Keller; people who claim moral superiority due to their political views yet appear to me to live their lives as hypocrites. He is just a smaller version of Tim Eyman, and I am so thankful I did not become either of them. That being said, 3,500 voter signatures means something. What if those signatures were for a $15 minimum wage? The same people fighting to keep the sanctuary issue OFF the ballot, would be screaming to put the minimum wage issue ON the ballot, “because we have signatures”. And money in Burien politics? Outside money paid for the flyer that got Austin Bell elected, even when there were legitimate questions about whether he was truly a current Burien resident at the time. And watch where the outside labor money comes from to pay for color flyers as November approaches. Law enforcement has taught us that people are less likely to report a crime if they fear an immigration response. That is why King County (Burien) sheriff deputies do not ask about immigration status now. Sounds like a smart policy to me. And finally, Ms. Berkowitz has been playing Burien for a chump for years now. As long as Burien keeps electing unknown people who lack a history in Burien, you will keep getting the same result.

    • Desertrat says:

      Jennifer, you are right on target here.
      How interesting they view this recent petition as some grass roots, neighbors, Burien residents, it laughable. It was outside organization, who used deceptive practices to gather signatures.
      Then they paint real Burien residents as the few, the loud, “anarchist” it is sad.

  2. Lisa Parks says:

    Thank you for sharing a heartwarming experience.

    You explained the current situation perfectly and I thank you for that, also.

    You are the perfect neighbor! The correct amounts of common sense and compassion.

  3. Maureen says:

    Thank you for writing in with your story, Mark.

  4. Seahurst resident says:

    Well said Mark. These are the thoughtful Burien neighbors we are proud of. People that endorse democracy also usually people that endorse the law of the land. Now, we are hijacked by a small group of anarchist that disrupts council meetings and hates democracy.

    Any good citizen cares for their neighbor, but want the drug dealers and terrorists to be kicked out. Let’s hope the upcoming election will change enough seats in the council that this city can be ran like well run and flourishing neighboring cities like Bellevue, Sammamish, Redmond etc. Let’s turn this high crime ghetto around.

  5. Question Authority says:

    You rebel you, prepare for the wrath of the Left leaners among us. You helped a desperate man which I applaud you for, but as you have made clear it has nothing to do with the mess Burien is facing.

  6. Jeff says:

    Thank you Mark. Your story is inspiring.

  7. Desertrat says:

    While I think your story sounds great and speaks volumes as a human, I don’t think it really has anything to do with the sanctuary city status.
    My problem, or a big one, is the way the 3500 signatures were gathered. I was asked multiple times, too many to count, each time a bit differently, and most times, quite deceptively. “Are you aware the Burien City Council passed an ordinance forbidding the police from arresting criminals?”
    “Really I say”
    “Yes” I am told, “and they are not allowed to do background checks on criminals”
    At this point that is enough to get people to sign this petition with no clue what they are signing.
    So, I guess, I have a big problem with this illegal petition being used to put a vote to the people by a sketchy organization.
    But your story was good.

    • michaelJ says:

      One gatherer told me this ordinance prevents the police from investigating gangs. I said “how do you know that?” The reply was: “A police officer told me.”
      The appeal to authority is a standard propaganda. But I could see it working on the elderly and more alt-right types.

  8. While the story of helping the young man on the highway is laudable, it’s tarnished by associating it with the current unrelated if not incongruous political maneuver to repeal the Sanctuary law, which would make such people needlessly fearful.

    There is an article in the Stranger claiming the petition effort was initiated by a Seattle resident. Comment?


  9. RH Hoyt says:

    Any comments about the brutal rape of a 19yr old women, reported today, by an illegal. Is this what the Burien City Council wants to protect? Shame on those who voted for the sanctuary status. You tried to hide this from the press, but it got out. Hopefully in November this measure will be handed back to you. PRAY for her!

  10. David Feinberg says:

    RH Hoyt

    Speaking of the victim which no one does, on Burien Proud Burien First, I proposed stRting a medical fund for the victim. Not ONE member of that fine group stepped up; yet they are happy to go on and on and on about the perpetrator. MONEY TALKS HYPOCRISY WALKS.

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