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City Council affirms ‘immigrant-friendly’ status

Jessica Martines speaks and Marian Mendez-Terra translates for her as she spoke before the Albuquerque City Council, which was meeting to take up a memorial reaffirming Albuquerque's status as an "immigrant friendly city." (Jim Thompson/Journal)

Jessica Martines speaks, while Marian Mendez-Terra translates for her, as she addresses the Albuquerque City Council, which took up a memorial reaffirming Albuquerque’s status as an “immigrant-friendly” city on Wednesday. (Jim Thompson/Journal)

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — A standing-room-only crowd cheered city councilors who approved a measure Wednesday that has a largely symbolic effect of reaffirming Albuquerque as an “immigrant-friendly” city.

Albuquerque councilors voted 6-1 to approve the memorial, with Councilors Dan Lewis and Don Harris absent.

Wednesday's City Council meeting drew a standing room only crowd. (Jim Thompson/Journal)

Wednesday’s City Council meeting drew a standing-room-only crowd. (Jim Thompson/Journal)

An estimated 300 people who watched the discussion from both inside and outside the council chamber applauded the vote.

Also on Wednesday, the Santa Fe City Council unanimously approved a resolution reaffirming the city’s status as a welcoming community for immigrants and refugees.

Albuquerque Councilor Trudy Jones, a Republican, cast the lone vote in opposition, saying the measure will lead many to believe that Albuquerque is a “sanctuary city,” which denies cooperation to federal immigration officials.

The memorial reaffirms that Albuquerque will not use city resources to identify or apprehend illegal immigrants “unless otherwise required by law to do so,” which councilors say means the city will comply with federal laws.

Jones also opposed the measure because “immigration is legal immigration, not illegal immigration,” she said.

“We are turning into an us-versus-them society,” said Councilor Diane Gibson, a co-sponsor of the memorial. “We need to stop that, and I see this memorial as one tiny step toward doing that.”

Councilor Pat Davis, another co-sponsor, said that although the memorial is largely symbolic, it shows that the council has the political will to block cooperation and data sharing between the city and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials, should they become more aggressive about enforcement.

More than 30 speakers urged councilors to approve the memorial. Many wore yellow buttons that said: “I support our local immigrant communities.”

Some speakers said that President Donald Trump’s policies and statements have created a climate of fear among immigrants in Albuquerque.

“The undercurrent of fear is palpable across all our social systems,” said Kay Huggins, interim director of the New Mexico Conference of Churches. “Fear is not limited to our immigrant community, but rips and tears across all our communities.”

Uriel Martinez, an Albuquerque resident, urged councilors to pass legislation that prohibits cooperation by local law enforcement with federal immigration officials.

“Parents are having to explain to their children that one day they may not be able to pick them up at school as they usually do,” Martinez said.

The memorial seeks to reaffirm “Albuquerque’s commitment to diversity and immigrant friendly status,” and to calm “uncertainty and fear” among immigrants and refugees since the election of President Trump.

A memorial is essentially a statement by the City Council. It does not require approval by Mayor Richard Berry as do ordinances or resolutions.

In December 2000, city lawmakers voted 9-0 to declare Albuquerque an “immigrant-friendly city” and barred the use of city resources to identify undocumented workers or apprehend people on the basis of immigration status, unless federal law requires it.

The memorial introduced earlier this month by councilors Gibson, Davis, Isaac Benton and Klarissa Peña restates much of the language included in the 2000 resolution, which remains in effect.

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