ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — City councilors have unanimously approved the renovation of the former Eclipse Aerospace headquarters by CSI Aviation, a project funded in part by $250,000 in state Local Economic Development Act funding.
The project required city approval because the hangar is on city-owned land at the Albuquerque International Sunport, and the city will act as the administrator for the LEDA funds.
The ordinance passed by the council Monday evening includes a stipulation that “no direct city-initiated funds distributed for the project may be used to support or facilitate immigration enforcement efforts.”
As previously reported by the Journal, CSI received more than $383 million in contracts with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement Detention Compliance and Removals office for air charter services over the past five years, according to federal databases. The databases show that many of the most lucrative awards are scheduled to expire this summer.
Earlier this year, Councilor Pat Davis raised questions about the hangar project in a letter to the city’s chief administrative officer, Sarita Nair. Davis asked whether the city’s role in the project might violate Albuquerque’s “immigrant-friendly” resolution because of CSI’s immigration contracts. The resolution bans the use of city resources to identify undocumented immigrants or apprehend people based on their immigration status.
But at the Monday meeting, Nair said the company “does not at the current time have that federal immigration enforcement contract.” She said the city had obtained a written commitment from CSI that it would not do anything that would violate the ordinance. Out of an “abundance of caution,” city staff who worked on CSI’s application were compensated out of a non-general city fund.
Michele Martinez, CSI’s vice president of marketing, said in a statement that the company is “very pleased to have the city’s approval” for the project. The company did not respond to a request for comment on the status of its immigration contracts.
CSI has maintained that the hangar project is related primarily to the expansion of its air ambulance services and has no connection to immigration contracts. The company estimates the hangar renovation will create and maintain an additional 60 full-time jobs over the next decade. Those include pilots, maintenance personnel and administrative staff, among others, with an average annual wage of $50,000.