Wednesday , June 14, 2017 - 2:59 PM
The doors are locked and vehicles block the drive at Beto's Mexican Food on Washington Boulevard in Ogden. Carolyn Aleman, owner of the Beto's and two others in the area, closed them Thursday Feb. 16, 2017, as part of national Day Without Immigrants protests against President Trump's immigration policies.
OGDEN — In running the city, Ogden Mayor Mike Caldwell doesn’t focus on the migratory status of residents here.
“Our responsibility is to take care of the people who live in our community, period,” he said.
As such, he’s not interested in cracking down on undocumented immigrants, even if “a lot of rhetoric bubbled up” in the wake of Donald Trump’s victory in presidential voting last year.
A contingent of immigrant advocates and religious leaders successfully lobbied Ogden city leaders to pass a resolution of support last month for the city’s immigrants and refugees, motivated by tough talk in the Trump administration against the population. As a follow-up, Caldwell and Ogden Police Chief Randy Watt will meet Saturday with the broader Latino and immigrant community, with Caldwell bringing his message to reassure group members that local officials aren’t targeting them.
“It’s really an attempt to allay some of the fears and the rhetoric that’s going through the community at this time,” Caldwell said. “The city’s plenty busy with our own local issues and that’s what we’re focused on.”
Immigration is the domain of the feds, more particularly U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, he added, and city officials “don’t have the jurisdiction to do that.” Saturday’s meeting goes from 1:30 to 2:30 p.m. and will be held at the St. Joseph Catholic Church Education Center, 514 24th St.
Ahead of the meeting, Watt gave an interview to the Salt Lake City affiliate of Spanish-language television station Univision, echoing Caldwell, according to an Ogden Police Department Facebook post Thursday. Watt also said police typically don’t ask for immigration documents of the people they encounter in carrying out their duties.
“We don’t ask witnesses. We don’t ask people making reports because we don’t care. We have no authority to be concerned about it and it plays no role in what we need to do offer safety and security to this whole community,” Watt said.
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Father Omar Ontiveros of St. Joseph, which has a heavy contingent of Latino members, doesn’t sense out-of-control fear in the immigrant community. He said some worry what may happen if they were to be pulled over by police for a traffic infraction, though, and Saturday’s meeting will let them size up city leaders and hear their take directly on the immigration issue.
“They would like to hear something more official from the government here in the city,” Ontiveros said.
Caldwell and Watt met with Latino leaders and others ahead of the Ogden City Council decision on May 16 to pass a resolution of support for the immigrant community. But Cirilo Franco of Americans Coming Together for Immigrants in Ogden and Nationwide, one of several groups and churches that pushed the initiative, isn’t aware of any such gathering with the larger community before now.
“The chief felt like he need to get out in front of the community more,” Franco said.
Likewise, Lt. Danielle Croyle said Watt’s Univision interview and Saturday’s planned gathering are about outreach. “We just want to reach out to our community members,” she said.
Last month’s City Council measure is largely symbolic, noting the contribution of immigrants here and affirming city leaders’ commitment to protecting their civil liberties, religious freedom and dignity. The Ogden School Board last month passed its own resolution of support for undocumented students and kids with undocumented parents and the district will have its own representatives at Saturday’s meeting.
The immigration issue is a thorny one and it’s important to discuss the topic openly so immigrant kids and their family member “really do understand their rights,” said Jer Bates, the Ogden School District spokesman. “We want to have them in the school and to be able to learn.”