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County Council to consider immigrant, refugee resolution

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One councilor fears move may risk millions in federal funds for LANL

By Tris DeRoma

Los Alamos County Council is expected to consider a resolution Tuesday, taking an official stand against unjust treatment of immigrants and refugees.
The move is a reaction to President Donald Trump’s attempt to ban refugees from six countries, but at least one councilor fears the timing risks millions in federal funding for the Los Alamos National Laboratory.
The resolution calls for all branches of the county government, including local law enforcement, to respect a person’s universal rights to due process and equal protection under the law and that county services “observe the fundamental American value that all people including immigrants and refugees should be treated with respect, justice and compassion.”
The resolution, sponsored and written by Councilor Pete Sheehey, was in part a reaction to an executive order issued by President Donald Trump’s ban on refugees from six Muslim-majority countries as a strategy against terrorism.
The federal courts have challenged Trump’s ban, and arguments for and against are expected to be heard in April.
“Yes, there is an issue with terrorism, and yes, we certainly have a right to defend ourselves. But, we also have, in this country, laws and a constitution that says that all persons have the right to due process under the protection of the law,” Sheehey said. “I didn’t see that action reflect that, and as we’ve seen, the courts agree.”
Sheehey is asking that the county adopt the resolution Tuesday.
County Councilor James Chrobocinski said he disagrees with Sheehey, saying that although his wife legally immigrated to America, he believes the resolution is beyond the county’s scope.
“Our job is to take care of county business. It is not to get into national political issues that we have no impact on whatsoever,” Chrobocinski said. “Passing this resolution does absolutely nothing to impact immigrants and immigrant rights, whether legal or illegal.
“At a time when we are asking the Trump administration to increase lab funding, this is likely to jeopardize that.”
President Barack Obama’s requested budget for 2017 for LANL was $2.2 billion.
The county receives about 8 percent in annual funding from the federal government, which is about $24 million. A majority of that funding goes to support the Los Alamos Fire Department.
Sheehey said this resolution is not about changing the county’s laws when it comes to dealing with county residents who may be here illegally, but to remind those in county government and law enforcement to treat all county residents equally and fairly.
“I’m not trying to make us a sanctuary city or anything like that,” Sheehey said.
Sheehey noted the U.S. Constitution affords rights to all persons living in the U.S., whether they are here legally or illegally.
“When it refers to voting rights, it says citizens. But in other rights it discusses, it says persons,” Sheehey said. “There are legal arguments about that, but even the Supreme Court, particularly for persons within our borders, has largely upheld that even people that are undocumented do have rights. These are American values. This isn’t some liberal idea. This is basic constitutional democracy.”
In February, the City of Santa Fe passed a stiffer resolution, after much debate over whether or not to take the word “sanctuary” out.
Santa Fe officials decided to remove the word “sanctuary” in order for the city’s policies to be legally defensible in a court of law, since there is no legal definition of what a “sanctuary” city is.
According to an Associated Press report about the Santa Fe resolution, officials also wanted to tone down the resolution’s language to avoid “starting a fight with Donald Trump.”
Santa Fe’s resolution also includes language that strictly defines the limits of local law enforcement when it comes to illegal immigration. The resolution also preserves confidentiality of a Santa Fe resident’s immigration status.  
Sheehey wrote a letter that appeared in The Los Alamos Monitor in February about his own immigrant resolution. He has also reached out on social media to his constituents about the issue.
He said the reaction to his stance has mostly been for the resolution.
“The point of this resolution is just to say that it’s an American value that we treat all people, including immigrants and refugees, with respect and justice. That’s all this resolution basically states,” Sheehey said. “We have to also deal with issues of defense and terrorism, but we can do that in a way that reflects our nation’s values.”

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Support Sheehey Resolution

I sincerely hope the County Council will strongly support Councilor Pete Sheehey’s resolution urging county-wide support for every person’s universal rights, and including the affirmation that “all people including immigrants and refugees should be treated with respect, justice and compassion.”

It has been said the resolution is beyond the county’s scope and does nothing impacting individual rights beyond what is already covered under existing law. I couldn’t disagree more. Existing laws have done little to curb the disturbing rise of hate crimes across our country. People should not just remain passively silent. There are times when it is important to be seen publicly and heard loudly declaring what is right and just and moral.

I want to see my county, my home-place for over forty years take this stand. If we want our county to be seen clearly as a welcoming, tolerant community, a good tourist destination, and a comfortable place to work and live, then the Council should take this stand and pass this resolution.