The Gilbert Town Council is being asked for the second time by a town advisory panel to officially recognize Mexican identification cards.
The Gilbert Human Relations Commission voted 7-2 on Wednesday to affirm its previous recommendation to the council, less than a month after the commission heard testimony by conservative East Valley state legislators and Protect Arizona NOW representatives who opposed the cards.
Panel member Lorenzo Sierra said he voted "on the side of respect and opportunity," while panel member Dan Fellner said, "to reject the proposal is to send the wrong message that Gilbert is not inclusive."
Panel member Jose Franco criticized those who spoke against the cards at last month’s meeting, which was called by Gilbert Mayor Steve Berman after he opted not to place the issue on a council agenda.
"I felt like the Devil Dogs had come back," said Franco, referring to the Gilbert white supremacist group that led to the creation of the Human Relations Commission.
But the commission was not unanimous in its recommendation.
"We are a government body and the rule of law needs to remain paramount," said panel member Ron Bellus, who said the cards encourage illegal activity.
Supporters of the card, which is issued by the Mexican Consul to Mexican citizens living abroad without checking immigration status, say it gives cardholders a sense of dignity, helps them open bank accounts and makes them comfortable around police. Opponents say the cards are not verifiable and encourage illegal immigration.
The commission agreed Wednesday to ask for a workstudy session with the council. Either the mayor or three council members must agree to hold the session. The commission hopes to set a date next week.
Berman, who did not attend Wednesday’s meeting, said the commission has failed to show why the card is necessary in Gilbert.
"I think they’ve got their own agenda, which is more worrisome than the card itself," Berman said.
The commission first voted in December to ask the council to join other East Valley municipalities and officially recognize the cards. The commission then asked to be placed on a February Town Council agenda, but the support was not there from Berman or three councilmen to discuss the issue.
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