Refocused resolution elicits 4 changed votesWritten by Michael Stainbrook | | email@example.com
Toledo City Councilman D. Michael Collins strongly opposed the immigration reform resolution presented to Council on July 20. Two weeks later, Collins advocated passing a similar resolution.
He said his actions reflected a change of wording and not a change of mind.
“I felt that the State of Ohio and the Council of the City of Toledo had no business critiquing the governmental operations of the State of Arizona,” he said, referring to the initial resolution presented July 20.
“That’s a federal issue, and the federal government has stepped in.”
Councilman Adam Martinez was the main proponent of the original resolution, which mentioned Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer by name and highlighted the controversial points of Arizona S.B. 1070. The resolution said the bill “encourages racial profiling and violates the Fourteenth Amendment.”
Before the July 20 meeting, Collins met with Martinez to discuss the resolution. Collins had drafted his own version and asked Martinez to do away with the language specifically pertaining to Arizona and racial profiling.
“Unfortunately, it was just minor details that I wasn’t comfortable with deleting,” Martinez said.
Collins voted against the resolution, which eventually failed when Mayor Mike Bell cast a tie-breaking “no” vote.
On July 28 — the same day S.B. 1070 was blocked in federal court — Collins contacted Baldemar Velasquez, founder and president of Farm Labor Organizing Committee (FLOC) and a staunch supporter of the original resolution. Collins told Velasquez about his version, and the FLOC leader became interested.
“He said he was totally unaware of it and asked to see a copy of what I wrote,” Collins said.
Velasquez suggested several changes that were incorporated into Collins’ resolution. Collins said Velasquez authored the resolution’s first section, which states the city’s opposition to “legislation that punishes victims as opposed to perpetrators of human trafficking and unscrupulous employment practices.” Velasquez then sought support from other Council members.
“I called everybody,” he said. “I had help from people like Michael Collins to talk to other people who had voted against it.”
Martinez, Council President Wilma Brown and Councilman Joe McNamara were Collins’ main supporters. Brown also voted “no” on Martinez’s initial resolution.
“The new resolution eliminated telling Arizona what laws they can pass,” Brown said. “I believe in home rule here in the City of Toledo and anywhere else.”
Collins, Brown and Councilmen Michael Ashford and George Sarantou all voted “no” July 20, but were in favor of the new resolution. On Aug. 2, Collins told Toledo Free Press he had secured nine votes. The measure passed 10-2 the next day. Collins said Sarantou was the unaccounted-for supporter.
“I based my decision on the fact that the federal government is responsible for the mess with immigration and needs to address this issue,” Sarantou said. “I felt the Martinez resolution centered on Arizona. That was just inappropriate. This is a federal program.”
Councilmen Rob Ludeman and Tom Waniewski voted against the resolution.
“If City Council directs its attention to every issue of national importance, we would not get any work done running the City of Toledo,” Ludeman said.
“I was opposed to the Obama health plan. It would have been very easy for me to draft a resolution … but that’s not really what Council’s job is.”
Ludeman said Velasquez spoke with him regarding the measure.
“I told Mr. Velasquez, ‘I look at an issue, even if it’s something that shouldn’t be before City Council. Once I cast my vote, I don’t change my mind.’ So it always surprises me when a Council member changes his mind, even when you change a couple words,” he said.
Martinez said the measure addressed the possibility that the Ohio General Assembly might consider a bill similar to the one passed in Arizona.
“The reality is, there are several similar immigration bills being thrown around throughout other states, Ohio being one of them in Butler County. By having an affirmation that we’re not going to stand for this type of legislation, I think is relevant for the City of Toledo.”
State Rep. Courtney Combs (R-54th) represents parts of Butler County and is the primary sponsor of H.B. 184, which would require a worker verification system and other changes to state immigration policy. He is authoring another bill similar to Arizona S.B. 1070. Combs said 30 illegal immigrants were deported from Butler County the week of July 25.
“I feel very saddened that Toledo City Council would side with drug dealers and human traffickers and people who bring contraband into Ohio,” Combs said.
“You can’t tell a difference between the poor people that are here to work and the drug dealers and human traffickers that go with it. Those kinds of people, those unscrupulous, low-life people, thrive on this stuff.”
“Not all migrants are immigrants,” Martinez said. “There are some American citizens that do this type of work, and we just want to make sure that every American citizen is protected.”