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City panel approves immigrant resolution

Copyright © 2018 Albuquerque Journal

An Albuquerque mother of two, speaking through an interpreter, held back tears as she talked about how her young daughter is scared of law enforcement after a family member was deported.

“My daughter currently is receiving therapy as a result of the trauma as a result of the deportation of someone they love,” said Jessica Rodriguez, who is also an activist. “They have grown to fear law enforcement officials.”

Rodriguez was one of dozens of people who spoke for about two hours Monday evening in support of a City Council resolution that would strengthen Albuquerque’s status as an “immigrant friendly city.”

The resolution cleared the council’s Finance and Government Operations Committee with a do-pass recommendation and will now go before the full council. Councilors Pat Davis and Klarissa Peña, the bill’s sponsors, along with Ken Sanchez and Brad Winter voted in favor of the measure.

The resolution had wide support from those in attendance. At one point during the lengthy public comment period, several hundred people who had filled the council chambers stood up to show their support for the bill. It didn’t appear that anyone in attendance was opposed to the resolution.

The Trump administration since taking office has threatened to withhold certain law enforcement grants for cities that have made immigrant-friendly declarations.

Attendees raise their fists in the air at the City Council’s Finance and Government Operations Committee meeting on Monday. They were showing their support for a resolution that seeks to strengthen Albuquerque’s immigrant-friendly designation. (Adolphe Pierre-Louis/Albuquerque Journal)

Peña said the city would be risking about $500,000 in such grant money. It would be a small price to pay for making a large number of people who live in Albuquerque feel safe, she said.

“In the city of Albuquerque we will be welcoming, we will resist and we will not help our families be divided and deported,” Davis said. “That is the point of this resolution.”

People from faith-based organizations, immigrants and their advocates, criminal defense lawyers and school teachers were among the diverse group that came out to voice their support.

“I’m very grateful to see the city of Albuquerque is stepping up to the plate to do what it can to alleviate the suffering,” said Archbishop John Wester of the Santa Fe Archdiocese. “Families are being fragmented, especially parents and children. Inherent human rights are being violated, especially the right to medical attention, food, shelter and education.”

Testimony was heard from school teachers who had students who stopped going to class after their parents were deported, restaurant owners whose employees lived in fear and others who were affected by immigration enforcement.

“It isn’t just a policy,” Marian Mendez-Cerna of El Centro de Igualdad y Derechos. “It means that we will hold our elected officials accountable to do their part to ensure the city isn’t complicit in enforcing federal detention programs.”

Albuquerque for years has had in place a resolution declaring the city as friendly toward immigrants. But under prior Mayor Richard Berry the city also carved out a small space within the Prisoner Transport Center in Downtown for immigration agents to check the immigration status of arrestees. It’s not clear when the last time the space was used for that purpose.

Davis and Peña’s resolution states that such a practice would not be allowed. It also states that no city employee will inquire about someone’s immigration status.

So immigration agents won’t be able to use the space marked aside by the prior administration if the resolution passes. The resolution would also prohibit city employees from notifying immigration agents about someone’s pending release from custody.

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