Albuquerque City Council to Vote on Controversial Amendment to Immigrant-Friendly Ordinance

Albuquerque City Council considers an amendment to the city's immigrant-friendly ordinance, allowing city resources to enforce federal immigration law for violent felons and traffickers. The proposal sparks debate among councilors and opposition from immigrant rights organizations, citing concerns over community trust and cooperation with law enforcement.

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Aqsa Younas Rana
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Albuquerque City Council to Vote on Controversial Amendment to Immigrant-Friendly Ordinance

Albuquerque City Council to Vote on Controversial Amendment to Immigrant-Friendly Ordinance

The Albuquerque City Council is set to vote on a controversial amendment to the city's immigrant-friendly ordinance, which has sparked heated debate among councilors and opposition from immigrant rights organizations. The proposed amendment, introduced by Councilors Brook Bassan and Renée Grout, would allow city resources to be used to enforce federal immigration law for individuals charged with violent felonies or human and narcotics trafficking.

Why this matters: This amendment has significant implications for the balance between public safety and immigrant rights, with potential consequences for community trust and cooperation with law enforcement. The outcome of this vote could set a precedent for other cities grappling with similar issues, influencing the national conversation on immigration policy.

On Monday, the Albuquerque City Council Committee of Finance and Government Operations voted 3-2 to send the amendment to the full Council for a final vote. Councilors Klarissa Peña and Tammy Fiebelkorn voted against the measure, with Fiebelkorn joining immigrant advocates at a rally on Civic Plaza to voice her opposition. "And now, for political points... and let's be clear there is no reason for this except for political points. We are putting this at risk of backsliding out on our immigrant-friendly policy," Fiebelkorn stated.

The city's current ordinance, first adopted in 2000, prohibits the use of city resources to enforce federal immigration law and keeps Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents out of city properties. Over the years, legislation has been passed to reaffirm and strengthen Albuquerque's immigrant-friendly status. Proponents of the amendment, like Councilor Bassan, argue that the goal is to improve safety, not create fear. "What I want to do is make sure that we continue having an immigrant-friendly city, while making sure that we are not a sanctuary city for criminals," Bassan said, emphasizing that victims of human traffickers or witnesses to crime would not be targets of the exception.

However, opponents, including immigrant rights organizations, argue that the amendment could have unintended consequences, such as violating due process rights, exposing immigrants to racial profiling, and discouraging undocumented victims of crime from reporting incidents. Alejandro Jimenez Lucero, who shared his experience with an abusive employer, expressed concerns that the amendment would make immigrants more vulnerable, stating, "We are working to have a better life. ... This only makes us more vulnerable."

Ben Bauer, Chief Public Defender of the Law Offices of the Public Defender, also opposed the measure, stating, "This proposal targets people who are merely charged — and may never be found to have committed a crime — based upon their assumed immigration status." Bauer argued that the federal government can and already does address immigration issues and that the measure would not improve community safety.

The proposed amendment was sparked by the 2019 shooting death of Jacqueline Vigil, whose killer, Luis Talamantes-Romero, was arrested on immigration violations in 2020 and found guilty of Vigil's death last year. Councilor Bassan cited this case as an example of the need for the amendment, stating, "These are people that are preying on immigrants, and our community and Albuquerque — and we have to put a stop to it."

As the amendment heads to the full Albuquerque City Council for consideration, the debate over balancing public safety concerns with the protection of immigrant rights continues. The outcome of the Council's vote will determine whether the city's long-standing immigrant-friendly policies will be altered to allow cooperation with federal authorities in cases involving violent felons and human or narcotics traffickers.

Key Takeaways

  • Albuquerque City Council to vote on amendment to immigrant-friendly ordinance, allowing city resources to enforce federal immigration law in certain cases.
  • Amendment targets individuals charged with violent felonies or human/narcotics trafficking, sparking debate on public safety vs. immigrant rights.
  • Councilors Brook Bassan and Renée Grout introduced the amendment, citing concerns for public safety and crime victims.
  • Opponents, including immigrant rights groups, argue the amendment could lead to racial profiling, due process violations, and decreased community trust.
  • The outcome of the vote could set a precedent for other cities and influence national immigration policy discussions.