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A Tale of Two Cities: Contrasting Cleveland and Toledo’s response to HR 4437


Commentary by Alan Abrams, La Prensa Senior Reporter


Cleveland’s Latino population and Latino community leadership are primarily of Puerto Rican descent.


Toledo is heavily Mexican-American or Mexican.


So what city do you think would be the first to take official action against the draconian HR 4437, the Sensenbrenner-King House bill that targets Mexicans and other undocumented immigrants for repressive action?


Surprise! It was Cleveland’s City Council which, in a 19-0 unanimous vote, passed on Feb. 27th Resolution No. 342-06, opposing HR 4437. 

Baldemar Velásquez


What made that courageous act so important?  Copies of the resolution were transmitted to Ohio’s two U.S. senators, George Voinovich and Mike DeWine.  Both Republicans will be voting later this month or next on a Senate version of the immigration bill. And their votes and willingness to break with the Republican majority could be crucial.


The Cleveland City Council action was echoed several days later by the Cuyahoga County Board of Commissioners, who also unanimously passed a resolution opposing HR 4437, which would make felons of 11 million-plus undocumented immigrants— including an estimated 1.6 million children.


HR 4437 also requires the construction of 700 miles of wall along the Mexican/U.S. border (by Halliburton?); would criminalize contact with undocumented immigrants by social agencies, churches, and non-profit organizations; and frustrate the dreams of legal immigrants seeking citizenship.


The Cleveland City Council action was co-introduced by Councilman Joe Santiago of Ward 14.  The resolution was introduced as an emergency measure. Here’s what Santiago told La Prensa about his motivation for stepping up to the plate and taking action.


Santiago, along with his assistant Sr. Alicia Alvarado, OP, said the bill is unconstitutional and is a huge blow to the freedom of all U.S.-Americans. “All of us come from immigrant families and we cannot forget the hardships that our families encountered in the past. This House Bill would make criminals of many of us living in the United States today.”


“I am of Puerto Rican descent and do not have to be concerned about immigration problems, but I support my Latino brothers and sisters,” added Santiago.


Then Santiago drew a frightening parallel between HR 4437 and Nazi Germany when he said, “This can be compared to what Hitler did to the Jewish population sixty years ago and cannot be tolerated in Ohio and any other state in this great nation. We must work together to find solutions to making immigrants legal citizens so that they can continue to work and provide for their families.”


Santiago’s words and those of the Cleveland Council Resolution can be expected to carry weight with Sen. Voinovich, a former mayor of multicultural Cleveland, and who, historically, has been sensitive to the needs of immigrants.

Joe Santiago


But what about Sen. DeWine? His Democratic opponent in November’s election, veteran U.S. Rep. Sherrod Brown (D, OH-13), told La Prensa Saturday that he believes his presence in what observers see as a close race has already moderated DeWine’s stand.


“He has voted correctly on more bills in the past six months than he did in his entire 11 years in the Senate,” said Brown about DeWine.


And DeWine may yet have the opportunity to come down squarely on the side of justice. The Senate is considering several alternatives to HR 4437, which passed The House on Dec. 16, 2005. Brown, along with Rep. Marcy Kaptur (D, OH-9), voted against the bill.


Rep. Ted Strickland, who represents Ohio’s 6th U.S. Congressional District and is the front running Democratic candidate for Governor of Ohio, broke with most of his fellow Democrats and voted for the bill. He has since acknowledged that he regrets that vote.

Sherrod Brown


Sen. Arlen Specter (R-PA), chairman of the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee, has introduced a draft that removes the construction of the Berlin-type, 700-mile wall from the bill and introduces the issue of guestworkers, which was not covered in HR 4437 due to Republican objections. Senators John McCain (R-Arizona) and Edward Kennedy (D-Massachusetts) have also introduced a compromise bill.


The last time the city councils of Cleveland and Toledo passed a resolution of such great importance to the Latino community was the support both cities gave to endorsing the matricula consular, the Mexican ID. That time around, Toledo acted first and Cleveland followed suit.


That unanimous resolution was shepherded through Toledo’s City Council by Baldemar Velásquez, the founder and president of FLOC, the Farm Labor Organizing Committee. And Velásquez is in the front line trenches once again to see justice done in Toledo.


“HR 4437 would make felons out of all of us at FLOC, who are working to help undocumented immigrants,” Velásquez told La Prensa Monday.


“That’s enough of a local issue to justify consideration of a resolution by Toledo’s City Council,” added Velásquez. 


But that is not the only local significance of HR 4437, which turns local police into immigration agents, draining their energies in the fight against crime and other critical  duties.


But Republican Council president Rob Ludeman didn’t think so when La Prensa spoke to him on Sunday.


Ludeman said he had been approached by appointed council member Taylor Balderas (District 3) about a resolution and told her he would not allow one to be introduced if it wasn’t about a matter concerning Toledo’s business.


“I remember when council wasted a lot of time debating a resolution about the Patriot Act,” said Ludeman. He politely told Balderas she could solicit letters of support from individual council members on their official letterhead.


Rob Ludeman

The news about Ludeman’s remarks rankled Velásquez, who quickly swung into action. Within hours, he had changed Ludeman’s mind and promised to hand-deliver a resolution for consideration by council this Tuesday, March 14th. At press time, it was believed that Velásquez had lined up the necessary commitments, from at least six council members, and the matter was being submitted for Council Agenda considerations this past Tuesday, March 7th.


Here is the text of Velásquez’s proposed resolution, which is comparable to Cleveland’s:


PROPOSED RESOLUTION                                          

 An Emergency Resolution


Opposing the “Sensenbrenner-King Bill”, HR 4437, which would make felons of 11

Million undocumented immigrants, criminalize contact with undocumented

immigrants and frustrate the dreams of legal immigrants seeking citizenship.


WHEREAS, on December 16, 2005, the US House of Representatives approved the Border Protection, Antiterrorism and Illegal Immigration Act. HR4437, also known as the Sensenbrenner-King Bill; and


WHEREAS, HR4437 criminalizes the mere presence of an alien without valid immigration status, thereby causing 11 million undocumented immigrants, including 1.6 million children, currently living and working in the US to be guilty of a federal felony; and


WHEREAS, the Bill’s broad definition of “smuggling” allows the federal government to prosecute almost any American having casual contact with an undocumented immigrant; and


WHEREAS, HR4437 could potentially make criminals out of church groups providing food, shelter or other assistance to undocumented immigrants, social workers assisting undocumented workers who are victims of domestic abuse, co-workers giving an undocumented immigrant a ride to work, and a US citizen living with a spouse who is an undocumented immigrant; and


WHEREAS, Toledo is the home of national Farm Labor Organizing Committee and said legislation would make felons of all its officers and staff. It would criminalize many of its members and make it impossible for them to adjust their status.


WHEREAS, HR4437 eliminates judicial oversight of delays in the naturalization process and allows the federal government to use subjective and secretive information to bar legal immigrants from becoming US citizens; and


WHEREAS, HR4437 would greatly increase the cost of our Police Department by adding immigration duties to their responsibilities; and


WHEREAS, this resolution constitutes an emergency measure for the immediate preservation of public peace, property, health or safety, now, therefore,




Section 1. That this Council hereby opposes the “Sensenbrenner-King Bill HR4437 and any other similar bills, which would make felons of 11 million undocumented immigrants, criminalize contact with undocumented immigrants and frustrate the dreams of honest, hard-working immigrants seeking to become full residents of our community and a part of the American dream.


Section 2. That the Clerk of Council is hereby directed to transmit copies of this resolution to U.S. Senators Mike DeWine and George Voinovich.


Section 3. That this resolution is hereby declared to be an emergency measure and, provided it receives the affirmative vote of two-thirds of all the members elected to Council, it shall take effect and be in force immediately upon its adoption and approval by the Mayor; otherwise it shall take effect and be in force from and after the earliest period allowed by law.


Signed: March 6, 2006, Toledo, Ohio.”



Once again, Baldemar Velásquez, Beatriz Maya, and other FLOC activists have stepped forward to ensure that “justice be done.” The annual March for Justice follows, scheduled for April 12, 2006, with a theme of immigration reform.


As often said by Velásquez, “¡Hasta La Victoria!”  






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