Valley Park Ordinance Under Fire
"We're not making any new laws we're not trying to usurp any authority we're not trying to make policy or set immigration policy whatsoever," said Alderman Mike White. "What we're trying to do is work with the laws currently on the books."
Unlike many ordinances that have a grandfather clause or a grace period, this ordinance has neither. In fact, within hours of passage nearly two dozen Hispanic families were forced out of their apartment building. Call it instant enforcement that caused some hard feelings.
"Were they nice people?"
"Yes, good people."
"Where did they go?"
"Were they legal?"
"[I] don't know," said one of their neighbors, Carlos Gamez.
"Valley Park is over-extending its reach and has passed legislation that was anti-immigrant, that opened a real Pandora's Box, and has led to racial profiling that's dangerous," complained Hector Molina, director of Hispanic Ministry for the St. Louis Archdiocese. "It's reckless, irresponsible, it's a knee-jerk reaction."
The archdiocese has filed suit against Valley Park and is teaming up with the American Civil Liberties Union. At least 22 lawyers will fight the Valley Park law.
"It may seem like overkill, a case like this in a small town," admitted ACLU lawyer Tony Rothert. "But we want to nip this problem in the bud and make sure any city that is considering this will be challenged."
The mayor hopes to take advantage of the national publicity that Valley Park is attracting.
"Is this a model for the rest of the nation? I hope so," Whittaker said.
"If you pass an ordinance like this, you'll find you had a much bigger problem than you thought," Alderman White responded.
Of course, the ordinance is the talk of the town in places like Donahue's.
"If you want to be here, do it the right way," said John Puzzo of St. Louis County. "We can't go anywhere and expect the same thing. They should have to play by the same rules."
Molina said, "I empathise with the frustration. But, if we're going to give local municipalities carte blanche, for them to regulate and enforce immigration and force property owners to be, all of a sudden, immigration police, then we're in for a world of trouble."
It has turned into a world of trouble for Valley Park, which said the ordinance targets renters and employers, not immigrants, in order to prevent an illegal immigration problem.