Stephanie Sandoval, Dallas Morning News, August 22, 2006
City Council members had little to say Monday night about suggestions from two of their colleagues that they adopt measures that would make it harder for illegal immigrants to live and work in the city.
But their constituents had plenty to say in a work session marked by heckling and interruptions by both sides. Many opponents cried “racism,” and many supporters said the measures had nothing to do with race and only aimed to make the city less attractive to people who are here illegally.
Several dozen residents crowded into the council chambers to discuss whether the city should restrict illegal immigrants through such measures as making it illegal for landlords to lease property to them; fining businesses that employ them; making English the city’s official language; and halting funding for children of illegal immigrants to participate in Summer Funshine and other youth programs.
Those ideas, by council member Tim O’Hare, were borrowed from ordinances adopted by Hazelton, Pa., and under consideration by cities in California, Florida and elsewhere.
Mayor Pro Tem Ben Robinson had more ideas. He suggested that the council also consider prohibiting the assembly of day laborers; requiring contractors to abide by all federal laws, including immigration laws; and having police who question the residency papers of people they encounter on traffic stops or accidents make copies of those documents and submit them to immigration officials.
Those who addressed the council during the workshop were about 2-to-1 in opposition to the proposals. But the overall audience was largely supportive, often yelling comments to speakers in opposition, interrupting them and prompting Mr. Phelps to bang his gavel several times to call for order.
“I want to live, Mr. Mayor, in a city that is resistant to lawbreakers,” one resident said. “I want to live in a city that’s not a haven for them. I want them to know in advance it will be tough for them to live in our city.”
Opponents said the proposed measures would put undue hardships on people who were here working hard to make a living.
“We wouldn’t want to do business with a city that is so racist,” said Elizabeth Villafranca, whose husband owns Cuquita’s Restaurant in Farmers Branch.