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Barely taking a stand Carlos R. Davalos | Tue, Jul 13 2010 01:28 PM

It's hard to know whether to applaud, gnash my teeth and choke down my contempt, or shake my head in amusement.

In May the Chula Vista City Council was asked by one person after another to take a public and official stance against Arizona's immigration law, Senate Bill 1070.

The city's dutiful mayor, Cheryl Cox, reminded speakers that immigration laws are a federal matter. Nevertheless, she and Councilman Rudy Ramirez formed a legislative committee that would cobble together some language that would state Chula Vista was supportive of equal treatment for all people.

At the time, their colleague Steve Castaneda had to remind them that what the public was asking for was a specific language opposing 1070.

Evidently Ramirez and Cox didn't hear Castaneda or they ignored him because what they came back with was a milquetoast piece of legislation so limp it makes a soggy noodle look like an iron shaft.

At Tuesday's council meeting Cox reminded the audience, for the umpteenth time, that immigration is a federal issue. She also said she and Ramirez drafted legislation in the spirit of uniting the community rather than dividing it.

Hence, Ramirez-Cox proposed a resolution that: recognized Chula Vista's history of embracing fairness for all people; CVPD opposes discrimination and racial profiling; saw a need for the federal government to reform its immigration laws and that the City Council is interested in policies and actions that unite the community and not divide it.

Way to take a stand. The leadership demonstrated in this particular endeavor is stunning.

What can one call that sort of legislation? Brave, as some members of the public were heralding it? No way. Toothless? Maybe. Spineless? Probably. But not brave.

In writing this resolution, Cox and Ramirez demonstrated that birds of a feather do flock together, as both council members buried their heads in the sand so deeply they couldn't hear what their constituents were asking them to do.

People wanted the council to take a public stand against Arizona's immigration law. Cox's reply was that immigration is a federal issue.

Point taken.

In that vein, however, one could also state that gay marriage and medical marijuana are state issues, desegregation was a federal issue and apartheid was a South African issue.

What's the point in stating the obvious other than to deflect responsibility for influencing change?

As Castaneda said at Tuesday's council meeting, sometimes you just have to speak out.

"If we say nothing, what are we saying to ourselves?" he asked rhetorically.

In all likelihood not one of the speakers who asked the council to publicly condemn 1070 expected the city to change Arizona's law.

But they did want them to convey to Arizona legislators that their California neighbors in Chula Vista didn't approve of the way they were handling their internal affairs.

They did want their leaders to take a stand. But they almost didn't, preferring instead to take the easy way out under the guise of peace and harmony.

It wasn't until an amendment by Castaneda and his other colleagues, Pamela Bensoussan and Mitch Thompson, was put forth that the Arizona issue would be explicitly addressed.

In other words, it wasn't until those three spoke up that the City Council would give the people what they wanted.

After reminders from Cox that immigration is a federal issue, and back and forth about procedural issues, the codicil to the original Ramirez-Cox resolution specifically states: "We strongly oppose SB 1070."

The reality is that Chula Vista's opposition to Arizona's bill won't change anyone's mind. If there is change it will have to come from within.

But the amended resolution does put Chula Vista on record as opposing the immigration law. And that action deserves applause. Not necessarily because of the position they took but because they were brave enough to take a definitive position.

In the same way Cox should also be commended for - finally -taking a stand and voting against the amended resolution to specifically oppose Arizona's immigration law.

As council members, the five individuals elected to office are expected to lead. Leaders must often times take a stance, even if it's not popular. At least that way their public knows where they stand on an issue and then give them the respect they deserve.

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