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Tucson rolls out the welcome mat: Council passes 'Immigrant Welcoming' resolution

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Tucson rolls out the welcome mat: Council passes 'Immigrant Welcoming' resolution

CREATED Aug 8, 2012

Reporter: Marcelino Benito

TUCSON (KGUN9-TV) -"We are immigrant friendly." It's the message the city of Tucson sent the world Tuesday night. The resolution tries to improve the Old Pueblo's image post SB 1070.

"There's a level of fear among immigrants because of the way they're treated," said Fr. Ron Oakham.

Fr. Oakham is the Pastor at St. Cyril of Alexandria Catholic Parish. He was one of several clergymen that spoke out at Tuesday night's city council meeting. He wants immigrants to feel welcome in the city.

"It saddens me to think we don't want immigrants," he said. "When I hear people talking about being afraid I think 'geez that's not who we are.'"

The motion by Councilwoman Regina Romero clarifies that legal immigrants are welcome in Tucson and will be protected. It's modeled after the city of Dayton, Ohio. The resolution passed with a 6-1 vote. Councilman Steve Kozachik was the lone 'no' vote. 9OYS reporter Marcelino Benito asked him if he felt such a resolution was necessary.

"No, it wasn't," he replied. "Our community knows what we're about. We showed it since our initial objection to SB 1070."

Kozachik says he voted no because of the Dayton model saying there are things Dayton does that would not work in Tucson and could do more harm than good.

"If the rest of the council wants to drive to Maricopa County and put this in Arpaio's office, I'll even drive the car," Kozachik said. "But we're already different then Maricopa County. What he's doing up there, doesn't reflect what we're doing here."

SB 1070 did impact local business. The resolution hopes to help turn those losses around. It's something the Tucson Hispanic Chamber of Commerce supports.

"I appreciate the spirit of the action that the City Council took yesterday," President Lea Marquez-Peterson said.

Everyone on both sides of the issue realize a few pieces of paper can't completely change an underlying anti-immigrant attitude.

"Just make a city immigrant-friendly doesn't take care of the problem," Fr. Oakham said. "We have a nationwide system that doesn't work. We need immigration reform and trying to fix it in an anti-immigrant environment is hard."

In the resolution, the council also expressed support for the Tucson Police Department and its commitment to protect all people living in the City of Tucson regardless of immigration status. The council also plans to host forums on racial profiling this Fall and plans to facilitate community conversations with key players before officially proclaiming Tucson an "Immigrant Welcoming" city.