Immigration resolution is too controversial for Basalt council
A resolution that proposed amnesty and equal treatment for illegal immigrants was rejected last night by the majority of the Basalt Town Council.
However, board members agreed they would consider a fourth draft of the controversial resolution as long as it was watered down.
Opposition was led by Councilwoman Anne Freedman, who protested that the language made it appear that Basalt condoned illegal entry of immigrants into the United States on economic grounds.
“To me it’s still kind of a pro-growth message. I don’t want to do that,” she said.
Freedman, a former college professor in political science, also warned the board against wading into national immigration policy or directing the town staff to perform research to determine what products come from sweatshops and border plants with deplorable working conditions. Both steps were advocated by the proposed resolution.
“We’ve got too many other things that we should be doing as trustees of Basalt,” said Freedman.
Mayor Rick Stevens and council members Leroy Duroux and Tracy Bennett noted many of the same concerns. None, however, objected to sending a message that Basalt welcomes people regardless of their ethnic and cultural differences.
“I have nothing against honoring immigrants or helping them,” said Stevens. “I don’t need a resolution to think that way.”
Councilwoman Jacque Whitsitt, who proposed the resolution along with board members Jon Fox-Rubin and Dave Reed, stressed that the message wasn’t meant to be divisive. The intent was always to show Basalt is tolerant and that residents are specifically sympathetic to Latinos. They are the largest group of immigrants and are facing the greatest hardships in areas like discrimination and poor treatment at the hands of some employers, she said,
But Freedman said passing a resolution that suggests Basalt will ensure that illegal immigrants get paid fairly by employers is deceiving.
“You’re kind of misleading them if you’re leading them to believe this is going to make a difference,” said Freedman. “This is a feel-good thing.”
Fox-Rubin countered that he and Whitsitt had met with Latino leaders, and they specifically asked for some of the actions proposed in the resolution.
“The people we talked to think this will make a difference,” said Fox-Rubin. “This is why I ran for Town Council. This is really important to me.”
No Latinos were among the sparse audience attending the hearing.
Reed said even symbolism can be important.
“Passing something couldn’t hurt,” he said. “It would certainly send a message and prime the pump.”
Despite different opinions on what exactly the message should be, all seven board members agreed that the Town Council could assist in integrating Latinos into the community.
Duroux said it bothered him to see scores of Latino kids playing soccer among themselves but not getting involved in the town’s recreation programs.
Freedman said she wants to promote interaction in ways like specifically inviting Latinos to get involved in Basalt’s Centennial Celebration next summer.
Bennett suggested that the town government send information out to citizens in Spanish and English, like the public schools do.
And the board will also take another crack at passing the resolution in support of human rights. Whitsitt proposed that the draftees remove more of the controversial language in the proposed resolution and bring it back to a future meeting for a final vote. She said she would live with the results regardless of the outcome.
“We’re not killing each other over this,” Whitsitt said. “We’re having valid conversations.”
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