March 15, 2017

Bernalillo County passes ‘immigrant-friendly’ resolution

Bernalillo County Commissioner and actor Steven Michael Quezada.

After more than 45 minutes of sometimes-impassioned public comment in Albuquerque Tuesday night, the Bernalillo County Commission voted to reaffirm Bernalillo County’s status as an immigrant-friendly county.

The commission voted 4-1 to approve the resolution.

This echoes votes by the Albuquerque City and Santa Fe city councils in recent weeks. On the same night, the Village of Corrales rejected a similar resolution.

In addition to declaring the county immigrant-friendly, the resolution also asked that “no county monies, resources or personnel shall be used to enforce federal civil immigration laws or to investigate, question, detect or apprehend person on basis of immigration status unless otherwise required by law to do so.”

Commissioner Stephen Michael Quezada sponsored the legislation.

Related: Corrales Village Council rejects resolution that would bar aiding in immigration enforcement

“There’s a real fear out there,” the Democrat said. “I know a lot of you don’t probably travel as much as I do, but the atmosphere in the country has changed for me.”

Quezada said he was recently spit on and told to go back to the country where he came from.

“They told me to go back to my country, and I went ‘Tada! I’m here,’” noting his family has lived in the area for hundreds of years.

Commissioner Maggie Hart Stebbins backed the resolution.

“This new administration’s policies just go beyond what I think, what I believe I would ever see in the United States,” she said.

Stebbins, also a Democrat, cited an example as the “unbelievable, heartless and cruel strategy of separating children from their parents as a way to try and keep people from coming to this country.”

Commissioner Wayne Johnson was the lone commissioner to oppose the resolution.

“Everybody deserves to be treated with dignity and respect, I think that’s a thing that we can all agree on,” Johnson explained. “But part of that respect requires responsibility of those that seek respect, and quite frankly that means respect for laws of this state, this county, this city and this country. And I see tonight’s action as politically-motivated, factually flawed, potentially dangerous.”

Public support

Suki Halevi, the regional director of Anti-Defamation League New Mexico, was one of the many who spoke in favor of the resolution. She cited World War II-era history and attitudes toward Jewish refugees and immigrant.

“We came legally until the doors were closed,” Halevi said. “Jews were sent back, many perished in the Holocaust. Some got in with forged documents, most were locked out.”

The name Donald Trump came up repeatedly, with many speakers criticizing the president for his actions on immigration.

Related: NM cities push back against Trump immigration policies

One was María Mártinez Sánchez, an attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union of New Mexico.

“Trump’s attempts to coerce and bully municipalities into assisting in the enforcement of federal immigration law violates the 10th Amendment, which clearly recognizes the sovereign status of the states and their political subdivisions,” Martinez Sanchez said. “The federal government cannot use coercive threats of withholding federal funds to compel state and local governments to assist them in enforcing federal immigration laws.”

Others spoke in Spanish, with translators, and described how deportations can impact families, separating parents from children.