Basalt council sends welcoming message to immigrants
March 15, 2017
Basalt sent a message Tuesday to people who aren't in the country legally that they are still welcome in the community.
The Town Council voted 6-0 to pass a resolution declaring Basalt as a "safe harbor" that strives to build a "diverse, inclusive and just community ensuring equal protection and services for all residents."
Councilman Mark Kittle abstained from voting and made no comment about the resolution.
Mayor Jacque Whitsitt said the resolution was initiated by the informal mayor's cabinet, a group of citizens who meet with her to discuss civic issues.
"There are many people who are in our community that are afraid," Whitsitt said, referring specifically to people who don't have legal status. The Trump administration has declared that it will increase enforcement of immigration laws. The local resolution is meant to be "an act of kindness" to offset the message on the national level, Whitsitt said.
"What do you do when your friends are threatened, you stand by their side," she said.
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The resolution makes five declarations:
1. "That the Town of Basalt affirms the basic human rights and dignity of every human being."
2. "That the Town of Basalt affirms our continue support for the civil rights of our entire population."
3. "That the Town of Basalt fosters an environment with policies that promote meaningful cultural, economic, community, and civic participation by all of our citizens, ensuring that our community is a welcoming and inclusive place for people of all backgrounds, identities and immigration status.
4. "That the Town of Basalt reaffirms its local funds and resources to be used for the benefit and safety of all our citizens. Federal immigration laws regarding document status are to be handled at the federal level."
5. "To refer to 'immigrants' as those who have migrated here from another country and to hereby adopt the language of 'undocumented' as the preferred term for those who do not have a federally recognized resident status. We choose to use only terms and definitions that represent fair and humane recognition of all residents."
The resolution was translated into Spanish by Samuel Bernal, manager of Radio Tricolor Aspen, a local Latino radio station. Bernal told the council that people are always calling the radio station to ask about the stance of local law enforcement agencies on immigration issues. The resolution by Basalt will answer some of their questions, he said.
"It brings some peace to their homes," Bernal said.
Basalt Police Chief Greg Knott told The Aspen Times Monday that his department doesn't check on immigration status. The department will make an arrest for a specific person in the country illegally when a federal arrest warrant is issued on criminal charges, he said. The department also wants to be aware and present for any actions within the jurisdiction by the federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement, he said. Knott wants local cops to be present to assure people that broad sweeps aren't underway.
Julie Fox-Rubin and her son Oliver spoke in favor of the resolution Tuesday night. When a group of people feels unsafe, it hurts the fabric of a community, Fox-Rubin said, and the local action could offset the "hateful rhetoric" on the national level.
"It's the right thing to do," Fox-Rubin said.
Her young son had a simple message for the council. "I want all of my friends to feel safe," he said, having his mom relay the message.
In other council action:
A resolution was approved adopting the Basalt Climate Action Plan. It is modeled after Eagle County's plan, with some Basalt additions. The goal is to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 25 percent by 2025 and 80 percent by 2050.
A brew pub license was granted for Elk Mountain Ventures LLC, which will open Capitol Creek Brewery in Willits Town Center. Pub owner Bill Johnson said he hopes to open to the public in mid-April.
The staff was directed to bring back a resolution to waive building permit fees for the Basalt Fire Department for an expansion of its Basalt station. The department wants to add bays for additional equipment and on-site staff quarters for personnel. The waiver will save the fire district approximately $18,000.
Approval was granted that will help allow expansion of NJS Kinder Cottage's daycare and associated playground at 258 Alexander Lane in the Southside neighborhood. The daycare still needs an approval from Pitkin County.