Immigrant tears and fears topped the agenda and made for a very interesting April 16 Albuquerque City Council meeting. The scorn of a few was outweighed by the hope of many.
Burqueños, by nature, have been immigrant friendly pretty much forever. If you’re not Native American, you are an immigrant, or come from immigrants who settled the Rio Grande valley sometime during the past. Making that stance a little bit stronger took center stage and formed the bulk of the 50-plus public comments in support of continuing a city resolution that recognizes our city as friendly and helpful to all.
A handful of public comments were delivered in Spanish with translators. “Our families, our communities are afraid,” one well-spoken young woman said. A few folks felt just as passionate about the reasons they were not in support of sending this message. “We need to follow the rule of law,” said one citizen, apparently thinking of illegal immigrants, and not our national leaders in the White House. Another said asking local law enforcement to look the other way is not going to keep our city safe. Others in the criminal justice field said immigrants, legal or illegal, are not the cause of the city’s high crime rate.
In 2000, an immigrant-friendly resolution became part of the city’s official DNA. The legislation reflected our tradition that the city will treat all persons with respect and dignity regardless of their immigration status, ensured that immigrants who live in the city have access to municipal services and programs and reminded police officers their job was not to enforce federal immigration laws, but to protect and serve our community.
The resolution reflected the city’s long history of welcoming lots of international scientists, students and folks from all over the world. Last year, Councilors approved a memorial that did not require the mayor’s approval, and re-committed to the city’s long-standing policies and statements.
Former Republican Mayor Richard Berry allowed federal immigration agents to have a desk inside the prisoner transport center to check any arrestees for immigration status. This new updated resolution requires a warrant for immigration officers to enter any city property to check the status of immigrants. It also keeps city workers, police and others from collecting information on peoples’ immigration status. It says Albuquerque is a safe place for all, including immigrants of all countries, as well as refugees, people of color, Muslims, Jews, LGBTQ and people with disabilities.
The new and upgraded resolution comes just as a federal judge issued a nationwide injunction barring the Trump DOJ from giving priority status for policing grants to departments that agree to “cooperate” with immigration. “Cooperate” in the Trump-Sessions world means “work for the Feds for free.” One speaker said if the city ends up in federal court over this resolution, there are many local attorneys who would be happy to represent the city. It’s not complicated: To protect and serve the community of everyone, a cop can’t be trying to arrest and deport a relative or two among many of our non-white families, or families with less Americanized-English speaking skills.
Bernalillo County took a similar stand last year by banning the use of county funds and personnel to investigate or arrest solely on immigration status. It did so with good reason, avoiding nationalized partisan politicization of the demographic reality of our state, county and city. This week, City Councilors Brad Winter, Trudy Jones and Don Harris voted against the measure. Councilors Klarissa Peña, Pat Davis, Isaac Benton, Cynthia Borrego, Diane Gibson and Ken Sanchez approved the strengthened stance.
Three separate bills provided a little bit of much needed assistance for the city’s burgeoning homeless population. Two bills tucked in the consent agenda provided $297,685 to continue to provide rental assistance to Albuquerque Heading Home until December 31, 2019. And $225,641 was provided to St. Martin’s for tenant assistance to homeless individuals and families. Later in the Council meeting, Councilors approved issuing a request for proposals to buy, plan or build a single site housing project for people in need of housing with behavioral and mental health needs.
Councilors gave shoutouts to the Atrisco Heritage High School basketball team for being the 6A state champions, and to the Rio Grande Model Railroad Club for its community involvement in getting youth interested in tiny trains.
It sure seems more people are volunteering to fill the many positions on the numerous city civilian boards and commissions—probably because Weekly Alibi prints their names in recognition for contributing their time and expertise. Nine more people stepped up at the last Council meeting, including Dr. Karen E. Brown who will serve on the Balloon Museum Board of Trustees; Victor C. Limary was named to the Central Avenue Business Advisory Board; Ms. Sanders Moore was appointed to the Albuquerque Energy Council; Travis M. Davis will be on the Greater Albuquerque Recreational Trails Committee; Roselyn M. McCamey is now a member of the Greater Albuquerque Bicycle Advisory Committee; Sean F. Gilligan will represent on the Housing & Neighborhood Economic Development Committee; Len Romano is now a part of the Central Avenue Advisory Board; Likhaya Dayile was added to the roster at the Greater Albuquerque Recreational Trails Committee; and Lovie McGee was appointed to the Albuquerque Housing Authority Board.