EL PASO — City employees were barred Tuesday from traveling to Arizona for training or conferences until that state rescinds its new immigration law.
The City Council voted 7-1 to adopt a resolution condemning Arizona’s newly enacted immigration law, which criminalizes undocumented immigrants and allows municipal and state law enforcement officials to ask for a person’s documents if officials have “a reasonable suspicion” that the person is the U.S. illegally.
City Rep. Eddie Holguin wrote the resolution, which at first did not contain any punitive action against Arizona, but it was then amended by city Rep. Steve Ortega to include wording barring any city staff member from going to the state on business matters.
“In order for this action to have any significant impact, we have to think about the economic impact that we could have on that state,” Ortega said. “The economic times are tough, I know, but that’s precisely why this resolution can be much more effective.”
City Rep. Carl Robinson voted against the resolution. He did not explain his vote during the meeting and declined to answer questions from reporters after the meeting.
An angry Holguin said it is clear that Robinson, who is black, is not willing to support other minorities in El Paso.
“He’s voted against the gay community, and he’s voted against the disabled community in El Paso before,” Holguin said. “Now he’s voting against the Hispanic community here, too.”
Robinson would not respond to the criticism.
City officials said that official trips to Arizona are fairly common and that in the past 18 months, about 75 people have traveled there for training, meetings or conferences. Officials could not immediately come up with a figure on how much the city spent on trips to Arizona or how many trips were planned in the future.
The council’s vote was met with cheers from many in the audience, but several people at City Hall on Tuesday said they didn’t agree with the vote.
Lisa Turner, a West Side resident who frequents the meetings, chastised the council for what she said was its support of illegal activity.
“We have laws and they must be followed,” she said. “I’m a citizen. If I get stopped by the police, I have to produce an ID. Why should someone who is not a citizen not have to do that, too?”
Council members did get support from several immigration groups and Chicano activists in attendance.
One immigration supporter, Alexandrina Burge, said that even though she is now a U.S. citizen, she arrived in this country illegally.
“I can’t believe anyone would say that I love this country less than anyone else. I am very proud to be an American,” Burge said in Spanish. “Those who support this law in Arizona are turning equality into racism, and we can’t let them do that to this great country.”
The City Council is the second local government to adopt a resolution against the Arizona immigration law.
The County Commissioners Court on Monday adopted a resolution condemning Arizona’s law and also called for limited county spending with companies based in Arizona.
Like the city’s resolution, the county’s encourages the federal government to come up with a comprehensive solution to illegal immigration and asks Texas legislators to refrain from adopting state immigration laws similar to the one in Arizona.
Gustavo Reveles Acosta may be reached at email@example.com;546-6133.