The City Council unanimously approved a resolution Wednesday in support of federal legislation that would ensure individuals being held or detained at a port of entry or at any immigration detention facility would be guaranteed access to legal counsel.
The Access to Counsel Act was introduced by California Sen. Kamala Harris and comes after President Donald Trump issued two executive orders halting or limiting immigration from some Muslim-majority countries. Both of the orders have been blocked by federal judges.
The resolution was approved with an 11-0 vote
“As an immigrant, I’m appalled by the Trump administration’s blatant disregard for the values Americans hold dear,” Councilman David Ryu said.
The vote comes one day after Mayor Eric Garcetti signed Executive Directive 20 that prevents the city’s harbor and airport police and fire department from enforcing federal immigration laws, following a similar policy that has been in place by the city’s police department for decades.
It expands Special Order 40, the Los Angeles Police Department’s policy that prohibits officers from initiating any police activity for the sole purpose of identifying someone’s immigration status.
The mayor’s action Tuesday was part of the Cities’ Day of Immigration Action, which was organized by the United States Conference of Mayors. Sixty-five mayors from around the country took part in the day of action to help promote immigrants’ rights.
“This is a day I think when mayors are standing up for universal American values,” Garcetti said on a conference call with reporters and the 65 mayors. “We are standing alongside our police chiefs, our faith leaders, our legal advocates, our business leaders and community advocates to reaffirm our commitment to our immigrant residents.”
At a press conference later in the day at the Lincoln Height Youth Center, the mayor and LAPD Chief Charlie Beck emphasized that expansion of Special Order 40 is about ensuring public safety and keeping city resources from being used to do the work of federal immigration authorities.
Both the mayor and chief said recent ICE raids and the presence of ICE agents at courthouses have had a negative impact on crime reporting by Latinos.
Reports of sexual assaults and domestic violence in the Latino community have fallen this year significantly compared to last year, Beck said.
Sexual assault reports have fallen 25 percent, and domestic violence reports have fallen 10 percent.
Beck said there was a “strong correlation” between the decreases and fears in the city’s immigrant population about increased federal immigration arrests in the city. He also said the reduction “far exceeds the reductions of any other demographic group.”
“Imagine someone being the victim of domestic violence and not calling the police,” he said. “Imagine your daughter, your sister, your mother, your friend not reporting sexual assault because they are afraid the family will be torn apart.”
The vast majority of immigrants detained since Pres. Donald Trump’s executive order directing ICE to step up immigration enforcement actions and deportations have been from Mexico and Central America, leading activists to complain that Latinos are being profiled and targeted by immigration enforcement officers.
“Where are the arrests of people from Canada and Australia,” a woman in the audience who only wanted to use her first name, Ana, asked EGP following the press conference.
Councilman Gil Cedillo (CD-1) was with the mayor Tuesday in Lincoln Heights. He said Los Angeles has a long reputation of protecting immigrants, and said Garcetti’s signing of Executive Directive 20, means the city is not only “accepting of immigrants,” but also a city that “protects them.”
“Not too long ago, Romulo Avelica-Gonzalez was dropping off his kids at school, when ICE arrested him and detained him. For a child, that image of having your father taken away by an agent that has the words “POLICE” written on his jacket, goes against our efforts to instill trust and cooperation with our local law enforcement,” he told EGP in an email.
Both Beck and Garcetti expressed concern that immigrant families out of fear may be keeping their children home from school or from participating in after-school and other programs.
Cedillo said his office is “starting to see constituents call in for City services and being reluctant to give their name or address. This tells us that people are scared,” something he says is not only counterproductive to our service delivery efforts, but is also inhumane.”
Executive Directive 20 prohibits officers from initiating any police activity for the sole purpose of identifying someone’s immigration status. It also bars any city employee from assisting any federal agency where the primary purpose is federal civil immigration enforcement.
“All residents must feel safe and supported when accessing the vast array of city facilities, programs, and services available to them,” the order states.
Information from City News Service used in this report.