International students could face new city law

Anchorage universities educating international students may have a harder time recruiting if the city assembly passes a new ordinance meant to crack down on illegal immigrants, said Erick Cordero, spokesman for the Alaska Immigrants Rights Coalition.

Ordinance 125 would require that the Anchorage Police Department and municipality employees enforce federal immigration laws by reviewing citizenship documents for all people living, working and traveling through Anchorage, he said. Assembly member Paul Bauer recently introduced it.

Cordero criticized the assembly for not hearing public testimony at the time of the ordinance’s introduction. He said the ordinance is vague and questioned where money would come from to train law enforcement and city employees to review citizenship status.

“It goes beyond an immigrant issue or Hispanic issue. It affects everyone in Anchorage,” Cordero said. “It creates an aura of racial tension that we can feel already.”

The written ordinance gives no guarantees that minority groups will not be targeted or profiled, he added.

Public testimony on the ordinance will be heard in November. It is scheduled to go before the Public Safety Committee noon to 2 p.m. on Nov. 17.

Paul Bauer said international students at UAA are privileged to be in the municipality.

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“If they’re in this country legally, there’s no problem,” he said. “They should have no fear. There’s no racial profiling here.”

The guidelines for enforcement aren’t written into the ordinance he introduced, he said. He noted the ordinance is just like the laws U.S. citizens are required to follow when they travel abroad to places like Europe.

The ordinance is positive, he said, because it is simple – not vague – and will protect Anchorage residents from illegal citizens and the costs they bring.

“A lot of it has to deal with safety issues. I want to close the floodgates,” he said. “It just forces our local authorities to negotiate a cooperative agreement with federal agencies.”

Anchorage is one of more than 30 sanctuary cities in the U.S., Bauer said. A sanctuary city doesn’t enforce federal immigration laws. Washington, D.C. and Seattle are also considered sanctuary cities, according to the Congressional Research Service, a legislative branch agency within the Library of Congress.

Nargis Mesyagutova, a senior majoring in air traffic control, said she is from St. Petersburg, Russia, and has lived in the U.S. for nine years.

“If a police officer heard my accent and asked me to produce citizenship documents,” she said, “that would be really offensive to me.”

“They’re automatically assuming I’m a criminal. That’s not who I am,” Mesyagutova said.

Russia and the U.S. haven’t always gotten along, she said. She thinks the ordinance could damage Anchorage’s international relations.

A law requiring her to prove her citizenship to police and municipality employees at any given moment would make her consider attending a different University of Alaska campus.

“If it comes down to it,” she said, “I definitely would.”