Phoenix Sanctuary City Petition Denied After Heated Discussion

Antonia Farzan
Supporters and opponents of the sanctuary city petition packed the city council.
It was virtually guaranteed that tonight’s city council meeting wasn’t going to end with Phoenix becoming a sanctuary city.

The city attorney had already recommended denying the petition brought forward at a previous meeting, a majority of city council members had said they were opposed, and Mayor Greg Stanton had made it clear that he didn’t plan to ask police officers to defy the law.

Thanks to SB 1070, which prohibits local law enforcement agencies from restricting the enforcement of federal immigration laws, the city’s hands are effectively tied.

But that didn’t stop people from packing the council chambers to air their views.

On one side, there was an older, predominantly Anglo crowd that opposed making Phoenix a sanctuary city. The phrase “We are a nation of laws” was frequently deployed.

One woman yelled “FELON!” every time a speaker mentioned the name of Guadalupe Garcia de Rayos, who was deported last week after more than 20 years in the United States.

“Never in my life did I hear of the term ‘sanctuary city,’” Fred Linsenmeyer testified. “First, you have sanctuary cities, and pretty soon you have sovereign states, and pretty soon you have the end of the United States.”

Cynthia Herrin, who said her family came to Arizona from Mexico “many, many years ago,” claimed that Phoenix would become like San Francisco.

“Ten years ago, everyone wanted to go there,” she said. “Nobody goes there anymore; everyone’s afraid of the crime that’s there.”

Anna Gaines said she came to Arizona from Mexico as a legal immigrant when nurses were needed during the Vietnam War. After mentioning that her four children had grown up to become a doctor, a judge, a CPA, and a systems analyst, respectively, she declared, “When you don’t follow the rule of law you are definitely not a good citizen.”

“I resent that very much because I am brown and I am originally Mexican, and they compare me to these kind of people,” she added.

“Self-hate!” a man in the audience shouted.

“We don’t want you anyway!” a woman chimed in.

Vince Ansel, who was wearing a “Bikers for Trump” T-shirt, said that rejecting the proposal was “not about the guy who mows your lawn, the guy who works out in the field, the housekeeper, whoever has come across the border is illegally and wants to make a living here.”

“This is when the guy who mows your lawn decides he wants to make a little more money and he wants to rob a convenience store, for instance,” he explained.

Things hit a low point when Anthony Woss, dressed in a safety vest and matching bright orange shorts, accused immigrants of “stealing in stores.”

“The ACLU thinks they can take over Phoenix, because they’re the ones who want those illegal immigrants here to take over our jobs,” he said.

Later on, a police officer had to separate him from a black man sitting across the aisle who said Woss had called him a monkey.

On the other side, supporting the sanctuary city petition, were Unitarian ministers, activists in “No Human Being Is Illegal” T-shirts, and a handful of people who testified in Spanish.

“I want you guys to not underestimate the pain and the trauma that our community has undergone,” Angeles Maldonado said. “We are sick and tired of it.”

“Arrest her!” someone in the audience shouted.

David Smith, who said he’d worked as a plumber for several decades, recalled the days when the workers at construction sites were predominantly Anglo. “After NAFTA had wiped out over 2 million small farmers and wrecked the Mexican economy, you could go to any job site and it would be 90 percent Latino and 10 percent Anglo,” he said.

“They came here in the millions, and they came here for a good reason. No one minded as long as houses were being built. But as soon as the housing bubble burst, we enacted this terrible law [SB 1070] and decided to make money off Latinos through the private prison system.”

Others argued that Phoenix should look to Rosa Parks as an example and practice civil disobedience.

“Morally unjust laws were defied in the civil rights movement, and they need to be defied today,” Dan O’Neal said.

Emily Spetrino, who brought her two toddlers — both dressed in lime green T-shirts and clutching dinosaur toys — told the city council that they should be embarrassed by the example they were setting for her children.

“You hold the power here, you can defy Trump, you can defy SB 1070,” she said.

“I’d like to make a quick shoutout to the white supremacists sitting behind me using disgusting language in front of my children,” she added as she left. “That’s who you want to pander to?”

Speaking in Spanish, Maria Bugarin asked Mayor Stanton for help. “Look how much we are doing, the people who are illegal,” she said through an interpreter.

“We are here to do the work that no one is doing or nobody wants to do. We clean the hotels, we clean the restaurants, we do the things that no one wants to do.”

Early on in the evening, Councilman Sal DiCiccio — perhaps the most outspoken opponent of the sanctuary city petition — had warned supporters that they were going to be disappointed.

“You’re not going to see politicians protecting you,” he said. “It isn’t going to happen. You’re just going to see a committee formed.”

He was right. The city council voted to explore the option of challenging SB 1070 in a closed-door executive committee session. The sanctuary city petition was rejected 7-2.

Correction: An earlier version of this story misidentified the speaker who said she came to the United States as a nurse during the Vietnam War as Cynthia McDonald. The speaker was Anna Gaines.