Flagstaff Resolution

On October 1st, the Flagstaff City Council voted in a 6-1 decision to approve a resolution in support of comprehensive immigration reform, calling on federal representatives to enact reform that reflects three basic principles: the essential economic role immigrants play as workers and taxpayers; the importance of family unity; and the need for a fair path to citizenship.

Flagstaff is the only municipality in Arizona to have adopted this resolution and one of the few to endorse any resolution on federal immigration reform.  At the previous week’s City Council work session, members of the Northern Arizona Interfaith Council  (NAIC) representing religious congregations, businesses, schools, and immigrants themselves spoke forcefully of the need for the resolution in light of continued federal government inaction. “It’s about time that Flagstaff stands up for its residents,” said Anamaria Velasco Ortiz, a third generation Flagstaff resident.

Gaby Aguilar, a member of Arizona Dreamers in Action (AZDIA) and a high school student in Flagstaff, said that while Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals provided some relief, “I don’t know what’s going to happen after two years,” when the DACA expires.

Frankie Madrid, representing AZDIA and Flagstaff Pride, said that his DACA still does not allow him to go to school or get a driver’s license. “I grew up here and was educated here, with your tax dollars. Flagstaff made me what I am, and there’s nothing holding me back from reaching my goals except immigration. I feel like I’m on a street with constant speed bumps, and it’s not fair.”

Jeronimo Vasquez from Killip Elementary School shared an educator’s perspective. “I’ve watched students struggle when the immigration issues affect their schooling,” he said. “There were times when we heard of immigration roundups in the community and kids didn’t come to school. Parents kept them home because they didn’t want to be separated from their children if they were deported.”

The only dissenting voice among the council was Mayor Jerry Nabours, who expressed his belief that city councils should not pass resolutions that address state or federal policy by saying, “I don’t do political resolutions.” Representing the Flagstaff Lodging and Restaurant Association, hotel owner Minesh Patel addressed Nabours directly, challenging the mayor’s stance. “At any level of government – including state and federal – they do make resolutions and that is how they work,” he said. He called on the mayor to acknowledge the critical need for workers in the hospitality industry by supporting this resolution.

Councilmember Jeff Oravits had expressed reservations about the resolution during last week’s session, suggesting that it should include a reference to border security. That suggestion was rejected by Vice-Mayor Coral Evans, who introduced the resolution. At this meeting, Oravits said he wanted to dispel any concerns that he was not supportive of the resolution, saying that after speaking to Senator Jeff Flake’s office and others, he was convinced of the need for action. He proceeded to vote in favor.

After the meeting, NAIC member Brooke Isingoma of Trinity Heights United Methodist Church said, “While we hope that this resolution creates momentum nationally, we also look for the effects it will create locally,” by raising awareness among law enforcement and other city agencies about the need to fully integrate the immigrant community. As Jeronimo Vasquez explained in his comments to the council, “We have 12 million people that we have to figure out how to integrate in a positive way or a negative way.  This is a step in the right direction.”

NAIC plans to introduce a version of this resolution in the Sedona City Council this month. Sedona Councilmember Barbara Litrell attended the Flagstaff council meeting and said that she hoped to see Sedona follow Flagstaff’s example as soon as possible.