Thursday, May 27, 2010

Kansas City Council Unanimously Opposes Arizona Immigration Law

By a vote of 13-0 about an hour ago, Kansas City’s City Council called upon the Arizona legislature to repeal it’s controversial immigration law and urged Congress to pass comprehensive immigration reform. They also opposed Arizona House Bill 2281 which prohibits ethnic studies in state schools. While tons of cities are doing this, the move is fairly significant since Missouri is considering similar legislation and the author of the Arizona bill is a professor at the University of Missouri, Kansas City. Story follows:

By Kevin Kelly
Catholic Key Associate Editor

KANSAS CITY — The Kansas City Council went on record — unanimously — in opposition to an Arizona law that gives local and state police in that state broad authority to detain and demand proof of citizenship from any person suspected of being an undocumented immigrant.

A resolution opposing the measure, sponsored by Fourth District Councilwoman Beth Gottstein and Third District Councilwoman Sandra Sanders Brooks, called on the Arizona legislature to repeal the law, and a second law banning ethnic studies in Arizona schools as a way, in part, to send a message to Missouri lawmakers not to attempt the same measure here.

Jude Huntz, director of the diocesan Human Rights Office which supported the council resolution, said that message was important.

“The Missouri legislature needs to realize that the Arizona legislation is not only flawed, it has no place in our state dynamic,” Huntz said following the council vote on May 27.

“Even if we had the same problems as Arizona, this legislation is not the tool for dealing with these problems,” Huntz said.

Gottstein and Sanders Brooks were the only two council members who spoke during a brief discussion of the resolution, which will now be sent to the Arizona legislature, among a long list of resolutions passed by local lawmakers around the nation.

Gottstein said the law places an “undue burden and unfunded mandate” on local law enforcement to enforce federal immigration laws while at the same time giving local police a license to discriminate.

She noted that the law says that Arizona local and state police cannot detain people “solely” on the basis of race, but that word in the law gives them the virtual authority to do so.

“If the police action is based 99 percent on race, then that will be OK as long as it is not ‘solely’ on race,” Gottstein said. “It’s a legal way of saying that discrimination is allowed.”

Sanders Brooks said she watched “in horror” as Arizona lawmakers passed the bill and Gov. Janet Brewer signed it into law in April.

“This will further allow racial profiling,” said Sanders Brooks, who also decried the passage of a second Arizona bill outlawing ethnic studies in the state schools.

“These two bills have had a chilling effect on the nation,” she said. “I hope we can send a strong message that we do not condone what the state of Arizona has done.”

Huntz said he hopes Missouri lawmakers get the same message.

“It is important that the (Missouri) state legislature receive a strong message from our cities that this type of legislation will not be helpful, and in fact, will be harmful,” he said.

The Gottstein-Sanders Brooks resolution also called on the U.S. Congress to pass a comprehensive reform of the nation’s immigration system, an action that is also strongly supported by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops.