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Bell, Baldemar differ on fallout of defeat of Council Resolution 363-10


By Alan Abrams, La Prensa Senior Correspondent


Within days of  July 20, 2010’s Toledo City Council’s 6-6 vote against passage of  a resolution opposing Arizona’s  controversial immigration law [RES. 363-10],  Baldemar Velásquez, president of the Farm Labor Organizing Committee (FLOC), is stepping up to the plate.


Velásquez has compared the new Arizona Senate’s Support Our Law Enforcement and Safe Neighborhoods Act (Senate Bill 1070) to Jim Crow laws, which legally deprived African-Americans of basic citizenship rights and benefits.


The defeat of the resolution was enabled by Mayor Mike Bell, who had the option of letting the resolution remain in committee, but voted, instead, to put it before the full council for a vote where a 6-6 split doomed it to defeat since Bell was also going to vote against it.  


“I’m pretty embarrassed for the mayor and the city,” says Velásquez. “We’re going to organize in the community and send them a message. “


 Bell defends his actions to La Prensa for “voting to allow the Democratic process” to proceed. Addressing the issue of his one deciding vote, he points to the six Council members who voted against the resolution—Brown, Ashford, D. Michael Collins, George Sarantou, Rob Ludeman, and Tom Waniewski— and asks, “Why is this about one person?”


Bell also says he does not see “equating Jim Crow to an issue involving ‘illegal’ immigrants. One involved ‘Americans.’ The other involves people who are not ‘Americans.’”


In education for Mr. Bell, ‘Americans’ include individuals from North, Central, or South America.


Bell further defended his lack of support for the defeated resolution because the Arizona immigration law involves a federal issue and that’s how he believes it should be dealt with. “The Toledo resolution did not empower anyone to do anything,” says Bell.


But Bell misses the point. Since Article I, Section 8, Clause 4 of the U.S. Constitution (and subsequent case law) gives exclusive jurisdiction for naturalization and immigration to the federal government, how can Arizona’s new law, that takes effect on July 29th, be constitutional? And if unconstitutional, how can one support it, especially since it will probably lead to racial profiling as believed by numerous organizations, including the ACLU.


“Toledo Says ‘No’ to Racial Profiling”


Velásquez has chosen as his messenger an organization called “Toledo Says No to Racial Profiling,” and he scheduled a meeting July 26, 2010 with other community groups and leaders who supported the Council resolution including: the ACLU, Project Able, The Diocese of Toledo, Erase the Hate, Jobs with Justice, and The Northwest Ohio Building Trades Council.


Bell points out that racial profiling is dealt with in a separate city ordinance, which is now in Council’s Public Safety, Law and Criminal Justice committee and has not been voted upon [RES. 317-10]. However, Courts have consistently held that racial profiling was unconstitutional and, hence, illegal.


President Wilma Brown and Mike Ashford, Council’s two African-American members, voted against the immigration resolution. Brown was on vacation and could not be reached for an explanation of her vote and Ashford did not return a phone message.


“We need to challenge Wilma Brown,” says Velásquez, adding that FLOC has always maintained a close working relationship with the African-American community.


Two members of Council, the resolution’s co-sponsor Adam Martínez and supporter Steve Steel, independently told La Prensa about possible factors contributing to Bell’s decision to take the resolution out of committee and put it up for a vote – where it was effectively defeated by a 6-6 tie.


According to Martínez, Bell claimed that he did not hear from any supporters of the resolution within the Latino community and that those he spoke with—identities not disclosed—had voiced opposition to the Martínez resolution.


But Bell disputes that version, and says he discussed the resolution at various times within the greater Toledo community but “found no overwhelming swell of support from within the general population.”


Why didn’t Bell contact Velásquez, who is the renowned head of an international union based in Toledo that deals with immigrants and farmworkers?


Velásquez scoffs at that explanation for Bell’s decision, adding: “as if there was little discussion in the community. Our political leaders come across as if they don’t know anything. They need to get educated. We have a Council preoccupied with its internal little power plays.  It is embarrassing for the city to have that kind of political leadership.”


 Steel tells La Prensa he received numerous “very misinformed” e-mails from opponents of the resolution, all of whom used virtually identical language as heard on right-wing radio talk shows.


Nationally, Republicans are generally in favor of the new Arizona law, which takes effect July 29, 2010, unless any of the seven court challenges against its implementation—including one filed by the U.S. Department of Justice—are successful.  


The Toledo vote shows once again that when it comes to lobbying, the forces of the right appear to be better organized. Velásquez called Council members prior to the vote, but now regrets not reaching out to try and educate those who voted against the resolution. “We were preoccupied with fighting other racist things in North Carolina,” he says.


 Numerous other city councils—including those in surrounding Cleveland, Columbus, Cincinnati, and Ann Arbor—passed resolutions opposing the Arizona bill, which requires local police to check the immigration status of persons that they have “reasonable suspicion” to believe that they do not have documentation and, to avoid arrest, requires that legal immigrants carry documentation of their status at all times.


The Toledo resolution [RES. 363-10] also asked U.S. Congress to pass comprehensive immigration reform that would solve the problem of undocumented immigration at its roots.  It also drew a clearly defined link to the racial profiling aspects of the Arizona law.


As Steel points out, “Because our elected officials all seem to have their personal agendas, we have sent a message worldwide thanks to the Internet that Toledo is not welcoming immigrants, whether that message was intended or not.


“If Arizona doesn’t want immigrants, send them our way. Immigrants are the lifeblood of Toledo,” says Steel.


The surrounding cities of Detroit, Chicago, Indianapolis, and Columbus know the value of city-building with new immigrants.




RES 363-10 Calling for Comprehensive Immigration Reform and Opposing Human


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