Monday, June 07, 2004

Durango Herald Online-Illegal aliens beg city to not enforce the law

Durango Herald Online

June 7, 2004

Immigrant safe zone urged for city

By Dale Rodebaugh
Herald Staff Writer

A Durango immigrant-advocacy organization says it will ask city councilors on Tuesday to adopt a resolution declaring the city a "safety zone" for immigrants.

A safety zone is not a sanctuary in which state powers are suspended, but simply a declaration of non-discrimination, said Olivia Donaji Lopez, executive director of the sponsoring Los Compañeros.

"We're asking that no one be discriminated against because of appearance, color or accent," Donaji Lopez said. "I don't want to generalize, but Hispanics here have been victims of discrimination."

The resolution sought by Los Compañeros would declare that the city wouldn't use municipal resources to identify, apprehend, persecute or deport non-citizens solely on the basis of immigration status.

"Immigration agents should do their job," Donaji Lopez said. "We don't want to stop any enforcement of the law."

In fact, Donaji Lopez said, the proposed resolution says: "In the event of conflict between federal or state law and regulations and this city resolution, the federal or state law shall control and supercede any conflicting provision of this resolution."

A model resolution offered by Los Compañeros also proposes that the mayor appoint a five-member task force to monitor the human rights status of non-citizens in Durango and report its findings and make recommendations.

Material supplied to bolster the Los Compañeros request indicate that the Marion County Board of Commissioners in Oregon and the cities of Austin, Texas, and Santa Fe, N.M., have taken stances to cooperate fully with, but not do the work of, immigration authorities.

States, counties, cities and private businesses routinely ask job applicants for proof of citizenship and could be potential sources of immigration information.

Joan Cornell, with the Women's Political Coalition, based in La Plata County, said her group supports the resolution.

"A lot of people come to town, work hard and pay taxes but aren't treated fairly," Cornell said. "Silent discrimination hurts as badly as when people are 'out' with it. We're all human and should be treated as such."

Whitney Vaughan, with the La Plata Family Center, said it should be recognized that everyone, including undocumented aliens, have civil rights.

It's not the job of police to worry about legal or illegal entry into the country as long as a person is not committing a crime or misdemeanor, she said.

Lisa Duran, executive director of the Denver-based Rights for All People, said efforts of organizations such as Los Compañeros attempt to pre-empt federal law now in the works to get local law enforcement to act as immigration agents.

Duran said the Clear Law Enforcement for Criminal Alien Removal and HR Resolution 2671 "are an attempt on the part of the federal government to speed up the deportation of people whose immigration papers are "out of status" but who are law-abiding in all other respects.

"Overstaying your visa or lack of a visa is not a crime," Duran said. "It's a civil matter, but the proposed laws are designed to stir anti-immigrant sentiment."

She said such legislation would tie federal grants to local enforcement of immigration regulations.

"Most police are interested in protecting the security of their community," Duran said. "They don't want to bother hard-working, tax-paying, school-centered, church-going people who are not a threat to security."


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