Aurora’s 1st council meeting of the year returns to immigration and citizenship questions

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AURORA | The first Aurora City Council meeting of the year will feature a reoccurring question of whether the city should join two organizations that focus on providing citizenship resources. 

The council may also take a vote on a targeted picketed ordinance, but the agenda says the sponsor wants to remove the item from the calendar. That would require a majority vote. It’s being brought back after a tied-vote in December.

Councilwoman Allison Hiltz asked fellow lawmakers to support joining Cities for Citizenship and Welcoming America Network at a study session in December. This is the second time she’s asked the body.

The body as a whole didn’t seem to have any reservations about joining the Welcoming America Network, but four city council members — Dave Gruber, Francoise Bergan, Marsha Berzins and Curtis Gardner — voted against spending $750 for an annual membership fee with Cities For Citizenship, which city staff described as a “major national initiative aimed at increasing citizenship among eligible U.S. permanent residents  and encourages cities across the country to promote citizenship efforts among immigrants and refugees.”

New York City mayor Bill De Blasio, former Chicago mayor Rahm Emanuel and Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti along with the National Partnership for New Americans and the Center for Popular Democracy formed Cities For Citizenship in 2014.

Councilwoman Francoise Bergan said those names would “send up a lot of red flags” to some Aurora residents.

“Non-partisan is just a tax term,” Gruber said of the group, which has nearly 90 cities and counties in its membership, including Denver, Tulsa, Dallas, St. Louis, Santa Fe, Las Vegas and Phoenix.

He said some of the coalition members of Cities For Citizenship are supportive of sanctuary city policies, something Aurora has been clear it is not. But Councilwoman Crystal Murillo said the distinction that Cities for Citizenship support sanctuary cities was a leap. “None of the text on the website on this organization says any of those things,” she said.

Aurora is now home to people from more than 140 countries, according to Ricardo Gambetta, head of the city’s Office of International and Immigrant Affairs. About 20 percent of residents are foreign born.

The city council members are also slated to decide during study session whether they want to draft a resolution or authorize Mayor Mike Coffman to write a letter responding to an executive order from President Donald Trump that would allow “localities and states the ability to deny entry of refugees to their areas despite having already been approved for resettlement,” according to city documents.

Since 1980, Colorado has resettled about 60,000 refugees. Over the last two years, Aurora has become home to 335 refugees.