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City Council asks Obama, Congress to halt deportations
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City Council asks Obama, Congress to halt deportations

After a raucous call to the audience, the Tucson City Council agreed unanimously to urge President Obama to use administrative action to stop the deportation of immigrants without serious criminal histories.

Sponsored by Councilwoman Regina Romero, the memorial argued that the current immigration system was "continuously broken," affecting approximately 400,000 people who live in Arizona illegally.

The memorial, passed 7-0, also asked for immediate funding to provide shelter and care for the unaccompanied minors currently detained under federal immigration law.

Romero called the memorial necessary, asking: "Why wouldn't we take a stand?"

"We're the second largest city in Arizona, so hopefully it does help as we take a stand along with other cities in the Southwest," said Romero. "Anything we can do to push the needle is important." 

Since 2011, White House has given Immigrations and Customs Enforcement discretion requiring the agency to focus on criminals, however high-profile cases have shown cracks in the system.

In June, ICE allowed Daniel Neyoy Ruiz to stay in the country after he took sanctuary for weeks in a Tucson church to avoid a deportation order. Neyoy Ruiz and others lacked a criminal history and were detained after minor traffic stops. 

During the call to the audience, the debate about the memorial soon included Tucson Unified School District's ethnic studies program, a conspiracy between Mexican drug cartels and the Obama administration, and the history of U.S. involvement in Guatemala. A few speakers were met with boos and cheers from the audience. 

Mary Lou Bevvino argued that the recent migration of unaccompanied minors was a form of child abuse. "Would you be willing to send your child across three borders," she said.

"This episode is part of an orchestrated plan to play on the emotions of the American people for the sole purpose of getting a U.S. passport and using chain migration as a vehicle," said Bovvino. 

Laura Leighton, who once fought publicly against TUSD's Mexican American Studies program, argued that unaccompanied children were carrying dangerous diseases. She listed nine serious diseases she believes are carried by the children coming from Central America, including swine flu, tuberculosis, measles and Ebola. 

"They will be sitting next to your children and grandchildren in our public schools," said Leighton. "They're costing us billions of dollars and there's more to come."

According to Border Patrol and the Department of Health and Human Services, the unaccompanied children that pass through processing centers like the Nogales Border Station are screened for diseases by officials from U.S. Public Health Service.

The National Border Patrol Council has reported agents getting head lice, scabies and bacteria pneumonia in recent weeks, and a single case of swine flu—a disease that been active in the United States since 2009— was discovered at Lackland Air Force base last week. 

In response, the Centers for Disease Control activated its Emergency Operations Center on a 24-hour alert and has begun shipping flu vaccines to Texas in order to blunt a potential outbreak among the confined minors.

Jesus Magaña, a U.S. Air Force veteran, asked the council to support the memorial, noting that during his deployment to Kuwait, he learned his sister was detained pending a deportation hearing. He left the service and worked to get his sister out of federal custody, he said. He also went to Washington, D.C., to press for immigration reform, he said.

"After a couple months being in D.C. it was evident to us that Congress was not going to pass immigration reform," Magaña said. "Congress continues to play politics with our communities." 

His sister remains in deportation proceedings, he said after the hearing. 

Isabel Garcia, an attorney and immigration activist, also pushed for the memorial, arguing that the community needs deportations to halt and Washington needed to hear from the community.

"Deportations are tearing up our community," said Garcia. "We have to stop this."

Last week, the Obama administration signaled that it would attempt to fast-track deportation proceedings, including a shift in the 2008 law that requires court proceedings and the involvement of DHHS Office of Refugee and Resettlement when dealing with unaccompanied minors. However, the White House did not include such a measure in the latest letter to Congress.

Earlier in the day, the council continued to thread the needle between following SB 1070 and the desire to be an immigrant welcoming city.

The city is adapting a plan created by the South Tucson Police Department as part of an agreement with the American Civil Liberties Union of Arizona to adjust enforcement policies. 

The council stopped short of banning officers from asking about the immigration status of witnesses and vehicle passengers because of uncertainty about how such a ban might run afoul of SB 1070. 

However, council members pushed for the continuation of community outreach and training programs relating the enforcement of the controversial law.

"Unfortunately what we didn't move forward, " Romero said, "But we continue to have dialoge with the immigrant welcoming steering committee, South Tucson Police and the ACLU on this issue." 

"The ideal would be to repeal SB 1070, but we don't see that happening," said Romero. "So we've taken a very definitive stand against the law and this is just one additional step ahead."

"Do we need to do more work? I think we do," she said.

Tucson's immigration memorial

A MEMORIAL RELATING TO IMMIGRATION; DECLARING SUPPORT FOR THE PROTECTION OF FAMILIES AND CHILDREN; CALLING FOR ACTION TO SUSPEND DEPORTATION OF PERSONS WITH NO SERIOUS CRIMINAL HISTORY; AND URGING THE FEDERAL GOVERNMENT TO PROVIDE APPROPRIATE CARE AND SHELTER FOR CHILDREN BEING PROCESSED UNDER FEDERAL IMMIGRATION LAWS.

TO THE PRESIDENT AND CONGRESS OF THE UNITED STATES:

YOUR MEMORIALIST RESPECTFULLY REPRESENTS AS FOLLOWS:

WHEREAS the Mayor and Council of the City of Tucson, by and through this Memorial, desire to adopt and approve the official position of the City of Tucson with respect to the issues addressed in this Memorial; and

WHEREAS, according to the Pew Hispanic Center, in 2011, there were 11.1 million undocumented immigrants living in the United States; and

WHEREAS, deportations have reached record levels under President Obama, rising to an annual average of nearly 400,000 since 2009; and

WHEREAS, according to Congress members Raul M. Grijalva and Yvette Clarke, although the Obama Administration reportedly prioritized deporting only criminals, many individuals with no criminal history have been consistently deported; and

WHEREAS, increased deportations and a continuously broken immigration system exacerbate the living conditions of children who are U.S. citizens and whose parents have been deported; and

WHEREAS, separation of children from their parents, irrespective of immigration status, always results in severe consequences for young children who are left with no parental guidance or care and a highly unstable financial situation; and

WHEREAS, as immigration continues to be at the center of national debate, President Obama and Congress must implement a more humanitarian immigration policy that keeps families together and respects the right of all workers to support their families; and

WHEREAS, Arizona is home to approximately 875,000 immigrants of which approximately 400,000 are unauthorized to live in the U.S.; and

WHEREAS, many members of Congress recently signed a letter requesting President Obama to suspend any further deportations; and

WHEREAS, Tucson is home to large number of undocumented immigrants from all parts of the world, and the City should therefore make it a priority to keep families together and continue to press Congress and President Obama for a solution to our broken federalimmigration system; and

WHEREAS, recent and ongoing experiences in Tucson, including the release by federal authorities of immigrant mothers and children who have pending immigration matters at a local bus station, where they are left with no resources or shelter, demonstrate the growing urgency of the need to implement more humanitarian immigration policies and practices, and

WHEREAS the surge of unaccompanied migrant children into the United States has overwhelmed existing facilities and resources, leaving local communities, including those in Arizona, struggling to identify the resources necessary to provide adequate and humane shelter and reasonable care and protection for these children:

NOW, THEREFORE, YOUR MEMORIALIST, THE MAYOR AND COUNCIL OF THE CITY OF TUCSON, ARIZONA, DECLARE AS FOLLOWS:

SECTION 1. That this Mayor and Council urges President Obama and the United States Congress to support administrative action to suspend further deportations of unauthorized persons without serious criminal history.

SECTION 2. That this Mayor and Council urges President Obama and the United States Congress to support administrative, legislative and/or executive action to immediately identify and allocate federal funding and other resources to provide appropriate shelter and care for children, and in particular unaccompanied minors, who have been detained or are otherwise being processed under federal immigration laws.

SECTION 3. That City staff is hereby authorized and directed to send a copy of this Memorial to President Obama, and to each member of Arizona's Congressional delegation.

PASSED, ADOPTED, AND APPROVED by the Mayor and Council of the City of Tucson, Arizona, July 8, 2014

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