Say what? Why would the Long Beach City Council insert itself into a fight over immigration laws in Arizona?

Long Beach councilors voted last week to voice support for Arizona's decision to make its own stand on immigration. Long Beach's stance contrasts with contrary votes by city councils in Seattle and elsewhere, which are protesting the Arizona law with boycotts.

It can be argued that neither Seattle nor Long Beach has any business spending time on Arizona immigration problems. Both ought to be fully engaged in working for their own local citizens of all races.

But they did, and in the case of Long Beach, did so without due consideration or voter input. Instead, the spontaneous 4-1 vote seems to have been a quick emotional reaction by politically conservative men who resent what they see as unwarranted outside pressure on the internal affairs of another state.

There's nothing wrong with being conservative or objecting to federal ineptitude on immigration. And the Long Beach vote undoubtedly did not stem from deliberate racism.

But by going out of its way to insert the town into a far-away fight that largely involves economic refugees from Latin America, the council risks having themselves and the town painted as racists. This could be highly damaging for a resort area that relies on Seattle and Portland visitors.

Acquiring this negative reputation would be doubly unfortunate, as Long Beach and Pacific County as a whole have built successful and respectful relations with Latinos. Native Spanish speakers play vital and irreplaceable roles in an array of local economic sectors, including shellfish, agriculture and tourism. Latino names appear with regularity on school honor rolls, sports rosters and tax rolls. They are highly valued neighbors and friends.

Long Beach, Pacific County and Washington state would not dream of passing a law like that put on the books by Arizona. The Long Beach City Council really didn't have any business supporting it, even if a majority of council members resent the politics of those who are attacking Arizona's move.

Although it's probably too late to rescind the letter of support that Long Beach councilors ordered, they should use their next meeting to humbly explain that they value the area's Hispanic residents and won't be engaging in further empty political gestures.

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