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Mayor Bell Made the Right Call

An El Tiempo Editorial

Editor's Note: This editorial appeared in this week's edition of El Tiempo. It is being reproduced here by permission and at the request of some readers, since the newspaper does not have its own website as yet. In fairness, the Toledo Blade editorial can be found here. 


Toledo’s mayor did the sensible thing when he recently broke a tie vote among city council on a non-binding resolution calling on Congress and the president to pass comprehensive immigration reform.

Mayor Mike Bell publicly stated he didn’t sense a majority consensus on the issue locally in explaining his vote to turn down the resolution. That effectively ended the debate on the resolution itself, because Adam Martinez, one of its council co-sponsors, had no plans to resurrect the issue in the future.

However, council colleague Mike Collins took up the cause, rewrote the resolution, and renewed the debate. This time the resolution adds instructions to Ohio’s governor and legislature, should they ever take up the issue in a manner similar to the Arizona legislation.

We believe Mayor Bell was right the first time. There is no consensus in Toledo on immigration. Even the local Latino community is split on the issue of illegal immigrants. Many Toledoans simply assumed that all Latinos were in lock-step, because it meant “looking out for their own.”

The Latino Alliance of Greater Toledo never took a public position on the resolution, because there was dissension among its membership.

Simply put, many Latino-Americans are concerned about illegal immigration, because they are products of immigration themselves. Their parents and grandparents came to America—but they did so legally. Many conservative Latinos believe the same rules should apply to this generation of immigrants, too. Welcome to America, a nation of immigrants—but follow our rules and laws if you want to stay.

A Toledo Blade editorial chastises the mayor and six city council members who voted against the resolution, calling it “a failure of vision and leadership.” We disagree wholeheartedly.

The failure of vision and leadership rests with city council members who concern themselves with problems thousands of miles away that have nothing to do with municipal governance. The other argument against the resolution is that Toledo has enough problems of its own—high unemployment, balancing the city budget, an uncertain economy—to worry about a state and federal issue in clear across the country in Arizona.

Arizona has the right to defend its borders and regulate its citizenry as a means of handling a problem unique to that state. America’s Founding Fathers gave states certain rights not laid out in the Constitution as a federal responsibility. The federal government itself is dropping the ball on comprehensive immigration reform, so Arizona is exercising its fundamental right to make sure laws are being followed within the state.

Let the federal courts decide whether what Arizona is doing is Constitutional. If elected officials want to advocate for a national solution to the immigration debate, press the Northwest Ohio congressional delegation to carry that water in Washington. Then it would be a bipartisan effort by Democrat Marcy Kaptur and Republican Bob Latta.

The Blade editorial also makes this pronouncement: “Had Mayor Bell voted for the resolution, migrant workers would know that they are welcome in Toledo.”

Thousands of migrant farm workers flock each summer to Northwest Ohio—and many of them stay, get married, and have children. The late Sofia Quintero, Baldemar Velasquez, and Maria Rodriguez Winter are both children of migrant workers who stayed—and just look at the positive contributions they have made to Toledo as a whole, not just in the Latino community. Migrant workers already are welcome in the Glass City, a community that thrives on and celebrates its diversity.

One resolution from one city would get lost in the din of the debate, especially if it fails to reflect a community consensus.

Both sides of the debate do agree that the federal government is dropping the ball on immigration policy and enforcement. It's time for Congress to address the issue-- and local governments to stop telling their federal counterparts to do so. They get it. But they won't touch that wedge issue with a ten-foot pole during a mid-term election.

Instead, incumbents will continue to campaign, give a well-rehearsed non-answer on the subject, and let all the various interest groups duke it out in court. That strategy will at least buy them enough time until the November general election.

Now hopefully Toledo City Council will move on to other, more weighty issues locally-- such as its individual members making good on their campaign promise to make the Glass City a more business-friendly community. We have yet to see any of them propose legislation to repeal some of the most nonsensical ordinances that are driving business to the 'burbs. It appears lip service wins yet again.