Basalt won’t `neuter’ new immigration law |

Basalt won’t `neuter’ new immigration law

The Basalt Town Council tabled a resolution on immigrants’ rights again Tuesday night, but the majority overrode suggestions that they claimed would “neuter” the measure.

The council voted 6-0 to delay a vote until at least Feb. 27 after a number of concerns were raised by board and audience members about the second draft of the resolution. But proponents made it clear they will approve something soon.

“I’ll look at it every damn meeting until I’m dead,” said Councilwoman Jacque Whitsitt.

She and Councilman Jon Fox-Rubin proposed the immigrants’ rights resolution after working with Latinos and hearing of the discrimination they face in the Roaring Fork Valley.

The resolution is titled, “Support of human rights and acknowledgement of contributions of diverse cultures to the town of Basalt.”

A more strongly worded draft was tabled last month. This draft makes a statement that no people should be discriminated against based on ethnicity or immigration status. It promotes easing U.S. immigration laws to allow quicker legal resident status and supports using foreign workers to ease the labor shortage.

Throughout the resolution, equal treatment is encouraged specifically for Latinos. Terry Paulson, an Aspen councilman, encouraged the Basalt board to drop references to specific ethnic groups and encourage human rights for all.

“All groups need to be represented fairly,” he said.

Basalt Mayor Rick Stevens agreed that the resolution shouldn’t single out Latinos.

“It should reflect a broader view of who comes here and why they come here, not just one group,” he said.

But Councilman Dave Reed countered that Latinos are the biggest immigrant group in the valley, and they are facing the brunt of the problems. To purge references to Latinos in the immigrants’ rights resolution would “neuter it,” he said.

Audience member Calvin Lee agreed that Latinos need to be specified because of their numbers and problems. The presence of illegal immigrants isn’t new to the valley, Lee said, but there weren’t as many concerns when the illegals were Australians and people who blended in.

“Now that they don’t look like us and there’s more of them, we’re hearing objections,” Lee said.

The board decided it would compromise on references in the next draft of the resolution by referring to “Latinos and other immigrants.”

Resolving phrasing on treatment of illegal immigrants might prove more tricky. Several audience members complained that the draft seemed to state that Basalt employers couldn’t discriminate against illegal immigrants by refusing to hire them. Board members agreed the wording needed to be changed.

Councilman Leroy Duroux spoke strongest against the resolution, and he noted that it put him in an uncomfortable position.

“Some things you say may be interpreted as bigoted or racist and I’m not,” Duroux said. “Some of these things need to be said.”

His concerns included the effects of special programs for Spanish-speaking students on the school district’s limited funds, the use of all affordable housing by immigrants and the implications of immigrants on labor issues.

“People who are willing to work for less money are hurting everyone who lives here,” Duroux said.

Instead of relying on immigrants to fill every job opening, maybe the market should be allowed to eliminate unfilled positions as well as some businesses, Duroux said.

Council members Reed and Whitsitt said it wasn’t their intent to pass a resolution welcoming unrestricted immigration. But they also insisted that the U.S. and individual cities and towns must address the labor shortage by slowing creation of jobs, not slowing immigration.

“The politically courageous thing to do is stop the creation of jobs,” said Reed.

Whitsitt noted that the Basalt Town Council is preparing to approve 600,000 square feet of commercial and residential space at Willits – along with scores of new jobs.

“It’s speaking with a forked tongue to say `Don’t let those workers come to fill those jobs,’ ” she said.

Mayor Stevens said Basalt can pass resolutions on the topic “until the cows come home” but they won’t really make an impact on the broader issue. That’s up to the American public as a whole.

Stevens did acknowledge Basalt has created a stir with its immigrants’ rights resolution.

“Basalt’s already gotten enough national recognition out of this to last for as long as we’re on the planet,” he said.

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