April 5, 2007

Common Council Supports Immigrant Rights Resolution

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In a show of support for immigrants’ rights, the Ithaca Common Council unanimously passed the Statement on Immigration Enforcement last night in City Hall.
The resolution encourages the Ithaca Police Department to not enforce immigration laws and states that the IPD is “requested to treat the enforcement of federal immigration laws as a function of federal law enforcement agencies.” However, the statement allows for Ithaca police officers to enforce these laws if there is suspicion of criminal activity.
The Common Council Chambers were completely filled and 10 people, including Cornell students, employees and Ithaca College faculty, spoke before the Council to support the measure.
One of the speakers, Maria Bruno ’07 argued that with the current situation immigrants do not feel comfortable approaching the police.
Many of the council members expressed their support for the resolution before voting on it.
“No one should be investigated merely because of his or her presence in the City of Ithaca,” said Alderperson Maria Coles (D-1st Ward).
She shared her own experience as an immigrant to the United States in 1961 when she spoke little English. Other council members spoke, echoing their support for the resolution.
“Injustice to one person in this community is injustice to everyone in the community,” said Gayraud Townsend ’05 (D-4th Ward).
The audience applauded after the resolution passed unanimously.
“It doesn’t appear to cause any conflicts with federal immigration law,” said Prof. Stephen Yale-Loehr ’77, law.
He explained that this is because of the language of the resolution which requests and encourages the IPD to refrain from enforcing immigration laws.
According to Coles, about 60 other cities have passed similar resolutions.
“Local governments have every right to pass ordinances and laws that govern their local jurisdiction,” said Michael Gilhooly, northeast regional communications director for U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement in a written statement. “At the same time, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement is mandated by Congress to enforce a wide range of federal immigration and customs laws.”
Of the students attending the meeting, Alan Ra ’09 said, “Not only does it have significance in the local arena; this is a statement to the rest of the country.”
Marlene Ramos ’09 said that this resolution’s approval shows how Cornell students can impact change. Most of the students in attendance were members of the Cornell Alliance for Immigrant Rights and the International Social Organization.
At the start of the Common Council meeting Alderman David Gelinas formally presented the Collegetown Vision Statement, which addresses strengths, weaknesses, challenges and recommendations for the business, housing, parking, cultural and urban design aspects of Collegetown. Common Council will choose whether to adopt the statement at next month’s meeting.