Chandler Mayor Boyd Dunn will join a handful of other mayors from across the country today to tell Congress they’re fed up with its inaction on illegal immigration.
Dunn, along with Phoenix Mayor Phil Gordon and other municipal leaders attending the 76th Winter Meeting of the United States Conference of Mayors in the nation’s Capitol, want Congress to act quickly and pass a comprehensive immigration reform bill before November’s elections.
“This is too important of an issue to sidestep because of politics,” said Dunn during a phone interview with the Tribune from Washington, D.C. “You simply can’t walk away from this.”
Besides Dunn and Gordon, mayors from Denver, Tucson and Sugar Land, Texas, will hold a news conference at 9:45 a.m. local time today in Washington to air their grievances and pressure Congress to act.
Dunn warned if Congress fails to act, it could lead cities to make the same mistakes Chandler made 10 years ago when federal agents and police officers swept through the downtown area, arresting more than 400 illegal immigrants. In the process, though, some people were detained without probable cause, including legal and natural-born citizens.
The city ultimately had to settle a federal civil rights lawsuit.
The enduring images of the five-day “Chandler Roundup” is something the city still struggles to overcome, but it is a potential pitfall and a lesson for other municipalities as they step in to enforce immigration law, Dunn said.
First and foremost, Dunn said he and other locally elected officials want the federal government to shore up the country’s porous border with Mexico. But to stop there, Dunn said, “would be leaving a lot out of the equation.”
He added that leaders in Congress must find a solution for dealing with the estimated 12 million illegal immigrants living in the country. The federal government also needs to help local governments pay for the growing costs of enforcing federal immigration law, he said. In many cases, towns and cities don’t have the resources to devote to dealing with illegal immigration without hurting other areas of public safety.
Both Dunn and Gordon have recently found their cities caught in the middle of a pair of high-profile crime cases involving illegal immigrants who had been deported but were able to sneak back into the country.
In September, an illegal immigrant was accused of slaying a Phoenix police officer. Federal documents later revealed the suspect had been deported in March 2006.
Earlier this month, Chandler police arrested a man suspected of stalking and raping teenage girls there for the past two years. Santana Batiz-Aceves, 39, was living here illegally and had been deported twice while living in California.
During his visit in Washington, Dunn also spent an hour with President Bush in the White House on Wednesday. He was one of a dozen mayors who were lobbied by the president to help him expand free trade agreements. Currently, more the 1,100 cities take part in the annual mayors conference, which meets each winter to promote local issues.
During the meeting with Bush, Dunn said they spoke about topics including the economy and the president’s upcoming State of the Union address.