|Published:||May 05, 2010 10:40 AM EDT|
|Updated:||May 05, 2010 10:40 AM EDT|
FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. (AP) - The Tucson and Flagstaff city councils
voted Tuesday to sue Arizona over its tough new immigration law,
citing concerns about enforcement costs and negative effects on the
state's tourism industry.
They are the first municipalities in Arizona to approve legal
challenges to the law. Earlier this week, proposed litigation in
Phoenix took a hit when the city attorney said Mayor Phil Gordon
lacks the authority to file suit without the support of the City
The new state law requires local and state law enforcement
officers to question people about their immigration status if there
is reason to suspect they're in the country illegally.
The Flagstaff City Council voted unanimously in favor of a
resolution that says it's an unfunded mandate to carry out the
responsibilities of the federal government. Its Tuesday night
meeting drew a crowd that initially numbered in the hundreds but
dwindled significantly as the night wore on.
The council will retain legal counsel and could either pursue
its own lawsuit or join Tuscon or other cities in efforts to fight
the immigration bill.
It also is considering setting up a legal defense fund to which
many in the audience said they would contribute.
"This new bill has the power to make a criminal out of me for
helping my family and friends," said Flagstaff resident Loretta
Velasco. "I will not turn my back on them, so whatever I can do, I
The few who spoke in favor of the immigration measure urged the
council to let someone else bear the cost of fighting it, and said
the law had nothing to do with racial profiling.
Roger Boone said most people agree the immigration system is
broken but a "race to the courts" is irresponsible.
"If Tucson is saying in a 5-1 vote it is filing, let them spend
their money," he said.
Flagstaff is struggling with a $12.8 million budget shortfall
this fiscal year, and city staff has been cut by 14 percent,
including the loss of 13 police positions.
Mayor Sara Presler said she realizes each lawsuit Flagstaff
faces for either enforcing or failing to enforce the immigration
measure could cost the city in roads, police officers or staff. But
she said it's better to be proactive than reactive.
Earlier Tuesday, the Tucson City Council approved a resolution
to sue the state, with Councilman Steve Kozachik casting the lone
no vote, The Arizona Republic newspaper reported.
Kozachik said he agrees the law is flawed but thinks Arizona
needs to "de-escalate the conversation" and filing a lawsuit is
not the way.
Other council members argued the cost to enforce the new
immigration law will be overly excessive.
Mayor Bob Walkup said the law is based on a misguided notion
that illegal immigrants are bad for the area's quality of life and
economy. He said much of Tucson's economy is derived from Mexican
tourists who come to vacation and shop, the Republic reported.
In Phoenix, the mayor had said he would proceed with a legal
challenge to the law after failing to gather enough support from
the City Council. But a legal opinion issued Monday by Phoenix City
Attorney Gary Verburg said only the City Council has the power to
Four lawsuits challenging the law were filed last week by the
National Coalition of Latino Clergy and Christian Leaders, a
Washington-based researcher who plans to visit Arizona and two
police officers, one from Phoenix and the other from Tucson. The
officers filed the lawsuit as individuals and weren't challenging
the law on behalf of their employers.