The City Council will hear proposed changes to the immigrant-friendly ordinance

May 13 – Immigrant rights groups and others gathered Monday to oppose a proposed change to the city’s immigrant-friendly ordinance.

The amendment was heard Monday during a meeting of the Albuquerque City Council’s Finance and Government Operations Committee. The five-member committee voted 3-2 to send the resolution without a recommendation to the full Council for a final vote. Councilmembers Klarissa Peña and Tammy Fiebelkorn voted no.

The ordinance, first passed in 2000, bans the use of municipal resources to enforce federal immigration law and keeps ICE agents off city property. Over the years, legislation has been passed to reaffirm and strengthen the city’s immigrant-friendly status.

An amendment proposed by council members Brook Bassan and Renée Grout would create an exception to that provision for people charged with a violent crime or human or narcotics trafficking. Bassan said the goal is to improve security, not to spread “fear,” and that the suspects will still be given the opportunity to stand trial.

Bassan pointed to the 2019 shooting of Jacqueline Vigil. Luis Talamantes-Romero was arrested in 2020 for immigration violations after fleeing New Mexico and found guilty in Vigil’s death last year. Bassan said victims of human traffickers or witnesses to crimes would not be targeted by the exception.

“What I want to do is make sure that we continue to have an immigrant-friendly city, while also making sure that we are not a haven for criminals,” Bassan said. “These are people who are preying on immigrants, and our community, and Albuquerque – and we must put a stop to it.”

But opponents of the measure said it could violate due process rights, expose immigrants to racial profiling and discourage undocumented crime victims from reporting incidents.

During the committee meeting and at a news conference earlier that day, speakers recounted times when they faced harassment or feared their immigration status would be used against them.

Alejandro Jimenez Lucero spoke during the Monday meeting about his experiences with an abusive employer. He said he and others were concerned about reporting the behavior, but the immigrant-friendly policies helped appeal to employees.

“We are working towards a better life. This only makes us more vulnerable,” he said in a statement read at the earlier press conference.

In a statement, Ben Bauer, the chief prosecutor for the Law Offices of the Public Defender, said the “federal government can and does address immigration issues” and that the measure “will not improve community safety.”

“This proposal targets people who are charged solely – and may never have committed a crime – based on their perceived immigration status,” Bauer said. “…Albuquerque must use the city’s limited resources to fight crime in ways that are proven to work.”