City councilors to discuss changes in city charters and immigrant-friendly policies

City councilors to discuss changes in city charters and immigrant-friendly policies

Albuquerque city councilors are expected to vote on a handful of proposals during a meeting Monday.

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. – Albuquerque city councilors are expected to vote on a handful of proposals during a meeting Monday. Including ones restructuring the city’s food service laws, and expanding the human rights ordinance.

But first, a conversation is only just getting started on some new, potentially contentious proposals. Some councilors want to rework parts of Albuquerque’s immigrant-friendly policies, and it all has to do with public safety.

Councilors Brook Bassan and Renee Grout want to make it easier for ICE to get involved when immigrants are caught breaking certain laws. That’s the only change they’re looking at. 

Albuquerque adopted a set of immigrant-friendly policies back in 2018, essentially blocking the city from working with ICE to enforce federal immigration laws.

They turned Albuquerque into a sanctuary city, and Bassan says some criminals are using that to their advantage. She specifically used Jackie Vigil’s case as an example.

Vigil was shot and killed in her driveway back in 2019 by Luis Talamantes-Romero, a Mexican man in the United States illegally.

A lawsuit filed by Vigil’s widower argued Albuquerque’s immigrant-friendly policies allowed Talamantes-Romero to use the city as a home base for crime. Bassan says he even admitted it in court.

Bassan’s proposal would tweak those immigrant-friendly policies to allow city officials to contact and work with ICE when an immigrant is charged with a violent felony, human trafficking, or drug trafficking, and only in those three instances.

Bassan believes the change will actually make Albuquerque even more immigrant-friendly.

“This is not about targeting weak, vulnerable, hard up individuals that really do need our assistance, coming to America to better their life. This is about protecting them, too, and protecting all of us in Albuquerque,” said Bassan. 

Bassan says her proposal does include some guardrails. Only higher-ranking police officers would be allowed to contact ICE, and there is a data collection component.

But it appears Mayor Tim Keller’s office is not on board with the proposal. A spokesperson says, “We want criminals behind bars, not set free from our criminal justice system. Deportation actually eliminates the possibility of victims and their families getting justice. We should not erode trust with victims and their families, so that they feel safe calling law enforcement to protect them without fear of deportation. “

Bassan’s proposal was only just introduced Monday, so it could take several weeks before we see any real city council debates.


City councilors are also expected to vote on a few proposals that could clean up some existing city ordinances. 

A councilor we spoke with suggests it’s all about giving city councilors – and by extension voters – a little more power in how our city is governed.

City Council President Dan Lewis is leading the charge on four new propositions, along with two other councilors.

The first would lower the minimum amount of votes needed to win a city election from 50% down to 40%. Right now, if a candidate doesn’t win at least 50% of votes, there has to be a runoff election.

Lewis says those are pretty expensive, and lowering the threshold down to 40% will ensure more votes count the first time around.

“This is an opportunity to be able to, full transparent elections where every vote in the city of Albuquerque counts. And so it brings the threshold to where we reduce the amount of run-offs that happen amongst city council races and the mayor’s race, and we give opportunities for people that have a majority vote to be elected,” said Lewis. 

The second and third propositions would give the city council a bigger role in the appointment and removal processes for key city positions. That includes the city attorney, city clerk, fire chief and police chief.

The mayor’s office would still get a lot of say when it comes to picking people to fill those positions, but Lewis says it’s time city councilors get a say too.

“They work for us, they work for the entire city, not just the mayor. And so this is, again, it gives a legitimate role to the city council that’s closer to the city of the people, the City of Albuquerque, to have a legitimate role in bringing about some of these key executive leaders in our city,” said Lewis. 

The fourth proposition would rework the procedure for separation of powers issues between the mayor and the city council.

Councilors introduced all of these propositions Monday. They will have to clear the city council before they land on the November ballot, where voters will get the final say.

Mayor Tim Keller sent the following statement in response:

“Our community expects, and deserves, us to be focused on tackling crime and finding solutions to curb homelessness, not wasting time on distractions that are ultimately political ploys for power. I’m always open to a charter reform task force and community discussion, but over-politicizing police and fire, removing safeguards for nepotism and corruption, and ignoring the public’s referendum for ‘majority wins’ elections, is simply out of step with what our city needs.” 

The mayor’s office pointed out voters already decided 11 years ago that city candidates need to earn 50% of votes to win elections.