Basalt ponders controversial stand on immigration law
Basalt officials agreed last night – after sometimes fiery debate – to draft a resolution that encourages an overhaul of immigration laws and promotes better treatment of illegal residents.
Six members of the Basalt Town Council said that the board should take a position on immigration issues, but they didn’t always agree on wording.
Council members Jon Fox-Rubin and Jacque Whitsitt raised the issue by suggesting a resolution that encourages changing immigration laws to make it easier to bring foreign workers into the country. That is essential to easing labor shortages in the Roaring Fork Valley and throughout the country, Fox-Rubin said.
The draft resolution also promoted amnesty for current illegal workers, discouraged discrimination by employers, and urged streamlining the process of acquiring citizenship.
“Our federal immigration laws stink,” said Whitsitt.
But not all board members were comfortable with Basalt weighing into a national debate.
“I’m not comfortable telling the federal government what it should do with immigration policy,” said Councilman Dave Reed.
He wanted a resolution that defines the labor shortage problem and immigrants’ plights in the Roaring Fork Valley, as well as proposed solutions.
Councilwoman Anne Freedman said the proposed resolution was too simplistic. If Basalt lobbies to make it easier to bring in immigrants, it must also lobby the federal government to help pay for related social costs in the Roaring Fork Valley, she said.
“It has to go together. We’re subsidizing [business] if we bring in a lot of workers,” said Freedman. “If you read this one way, it can be a recipe for growth.
“I’m not a bigot, but we need to look at those underlying issues.”
Whitsitt explained that she wasn’t trying to fuel growth by promoting an overhaul of immigration law. Her primary concern is the welfare of undocumented workers already in the U.S.
“Just because people are undocumented they’re having basic human rights taken away from them,” she said. “How much harm do you want to do to people who are already here?”
She claimed that deporting undocumented workers would cripple the local and national economies.
“We’d have a ton of businesses that [would] go bankrupt,” Whitsitt said.
Whitsitt and Fox-Rubin ultimately agreed to edit wording of their resolution to concentrate on local issues, then bring it back for a board vote in January. Mayor Rick Stevens was unable to attend Tuesday’s meeting.
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