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Council OKs resolution calling for repeal of Arizona immigration law

BY JOE BRITTON

City News Service

The San Diego City Council voted 7-1 on Monday to adopt a resolution calling for the repeal of Arizona’s recently passed law targeting illegal immigrants.

Council President Ben Hueso, who requested the resolution, said he supports immigration reform and protecting the nation’s border, but described Arizona’s law as detrimental to national unity.

“This law threatens to divide our union,” Hueso said. “I believe it violates the Constitution. It victimizes legal residents as well as those who are here in the country illegally. And, it discourages the victims of crimes in the immigrant community to access justice.’'

Citing a recent amendment to Arizona’s immigration law that seeks to address concerns about racial profiling, Councilman Carl DeMaio cast the lone dissenting vote.

“I cannot support the resolution as introduced, as it does not accurately reflect the Arizona state law as amended under HB 2162,” DeMaio said. “Moreover, the resolution as introduced fails to call the federal government to task for its failure to secure our nation’s borders.”

Senate Bill 1070, signed into law by Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer on April 23, makes it unlawful to be in the state without the proper documentation and authorizes local law enforcement to investigate a person’s immigration status whenever there is a reasonable suspicion that an individual is in the country illegally.

At the time, Brewer said she will “not tolerate racial discrimination or racial profiling in Arizona.”

On Friday, Brewer signed an amendment to SB 1070, called House Bill 2162, which bars race from being considered when inquiring about someone’s legal status.

“These new amendments make it crystal clear and undeniable that racial profiling is illegal and will not be tolerated in Arizona,” Brewer said last week.

Councilwoman Marti Emerald described the amendment as a “smokescreen.”

“In my mind, this house bill is a smokescreen by people who really do support racial profiling, and it would be totally unnecessary if the Arizona state government would repeal 1070,’' Emerald said.

A survey found that nearly two-thirds of Arizona voters support the new law, which backers say specifically outlaws racial profiling and only empowers local law enforcement to check people’s immigration status if they are stopped for some other reason.

San Diego police Chief William Lansdowne testified that he does not support Arizona’s law.

Lansdowne said his department prohibits racial profiling. Any change in that policy would result in a breakdown in trust with the community and result in immigrants not reporting crimes, he said.

“If we change that policy, it would be my belief that the community would no longer trust us and they would not report those crimes and we would not be able to adequately and effectively police the city of San Diego,” Lansdowne said.

Dozens of people testified at the City Council hearing, all of them supported the resolution opposing the Arizona law.

Pedro Rios, with the U.S./Mexico Border Program, called Arizona’s law “harsh and draconian” and said it was important for the San Diego City Council to send a message so that similar laws don’t get off the ground.

“This law will be replicated unless we put a stop to it,” he said.

In a statement, Mayor Jerry Sanders said he will sign the City Council resolution.

“It’s not the job of our police department to solve the federal government’s immigration problem,” Sanders said.

“As a former police chief, I know what we ask of our officers every day with our limited city resources, and their first priority is to protect our citizens,” he said. “There is no reason to complicate and compromise their priorities.”