Resolution Seeks to Officially Declare Los Angeles a ‘City of Sanctuary’

September 8, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

Two City Council members introduced a resolution today seeking to brand Los Angeles a “city of sanctuary” dedicated to “protecting the human rights of all our residents.”

The move by Council President Herb Wesson and Councilman Gil Cedillo follows their receipt of a report on Thursday that civil rights attorney Peter Schey submitted to the Immigrant Affairs, Civil Rights, and Equity Committee, which Cedillo chairs and which Wesson is a member of. The report included a series of recommendations for the city to undertake in response to recent immigration policies announced by President Donald Trump.

While there is no legal definition of a sanctuary city, it generally applies to municipalities that limit cooperation with federal authorities on immigration enforcement. Embracing the term has become a way for cities to openly defy Trump, who has threatened to cut off federal funding to sanctuary cities.

“It’s a declaratory statement of our values, of our vision, of our commitments,” Cedillo told City News Service.

At the committee meeting Thursday, Cedillo said he intended to submit a sanctuary city motion, but what was submitted at the City Council meeting was a resolution. A motion generally changes an existing law or creates a new one, while a resolution is generally a public declaration that does not change or create any laws. Cedillo said he submitted a resolution because declaring the city a sanctuary does not require any change in laws.

It’s not certain when the resolution would come up for a vote.

Although Los Angeles has long limited its cooperation with the feds on immigration, it has not taken on the official label of sanctuary city, and it is unclear how much support the resolution will have from Mayor Eric Garcetti.

The mayor has resisted calling for Los Angeles to embrace the term because he says it is often used by those looking to harm cities that have friendly immigration policies.

“It is not a term that has meaning,” Garcetti said in an interview on radio station KNX Thursday. “I’m not going to buy into a frame that somebody else who’s attacking immigrants uses.”

Cedillo said he agreed with the mayor’s assessment but believed they could find common ground.

“We agree with the mayor. The mayor has been an extraordinary champion in this area, and has been absolutely responsive from the beginning, and I think we are in concert, and his points are well taken,” Cedillo said.

The Los Angeles Police Department has had a longstanding policy of not initiating contact with an individual based solely on his or her immigration status and does not give immigration agents access to its jails or inmates unless they have a federal warrant. Because of those policies, Los Angeles is often referred to as a sanctuary city, though it has never officially embraced the term as other cities have, including San Francisco and Santa Ana.

Schey, a civil rights attorney, argued in the report that Los Angeles has wide discretion in setting its own policies on immigration and that because none of its current laws are in violation of federal law, Trump’s “showboating about penalties against sanctuary cities has no basis in law and is primarily intended to dazzle his base and intimidate local officials.”

Schey also told the committee that embracing the term was an important symbolic move.

“People seem to have strong views on this name thing. My stance has always been that’s what’s important. Ultimately, yes, that sort of symbolic statement, ‘We are a city of sanctuary, we are a city of refuge,’ etc., I think it’s important. It sets a certain tone,” he said.

Cedillo said part of reason for introducing the resolution was in reaction to the Trump administration’s move Tuesday to phase out the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program which has shielded immigrants who were brought to the country illegally when they were children from deportation.

“With the changed circumstance, with the announcement on Tuesday, it turned out that we had a scheduled immigration committee meeting, and it turned out that we had a report from our advocate, and it turned out we had a deeper understanding of what it is to be a city of sanctuary,” Cedillo said. “We are confident there will be no fiscal impact on the city, no adverse consequences on the city and we want to send that message to the (DACA recipients) who are here to continue to be engaged in the civic life of this city.”

The resolution cites the LAPD’s policy on immigrant enforcement, Trump’s DACA announcement, and the city’s history of adopting policies protecting all of its residents regardless of immigration status as some of the reasons for the resolution.

Schey’s report also recommended the city take steps to help immigrants in the country illegally and DACA recipients from being detained by federal officials by facilitating legal advice and representation for them. The report also recommended the city enact a comprehensive anti-discrimination ordinance, and decriminalize minor offenses likely to be committed by low-income residents.

LMU Poll Finds Strong Support for ‘Sanctuary Cities’

April 20, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

More than two-thirds of Los Angeles County residents support the idea of making their hometown a “sanctuary city,” according to a new poll released Monday by Loyola Marymount University.

“With such a high level of support for sanctuary cities, ICE enforcement would be more difficult. In our survey people are sending a clear message that ICE is not welcome here,” said Fernando Guerra, professor of political science and director of the study.

The poll found that 40 percent of those surveyed said they “strongly support” a sanctuary city where they live, with 28 percent saying they “somewhat support” the idea. Fifteen percent said they “somewhat oppose” their town being a sanctuary city, and 17 percent “strongly oppose.”

The sanctuary city question was one of dozens asked by the Thomas and Dorothy Leavey Center for the Study of Los Angeles as part of its Forecast LA conference. The conference was held Wednesday at LMU.

Although there is no official legal definition of a sanctuary city, many cities in California have voted to declare themselves one. The city of Los Angeles has declined to take the title even though its practice of limiting its cooperation with the federal government on deportations fits the typical definition.

The issue of sanctuary cities has gained prominence in the national discussion since President Donald Trump has threatened to cut federal funding to them.

Eighty-four percent of Latinos said they strongly or somewhat supported the idea of sanctuary cities, compared to 67 percent of African-Americans, 57 percent of Asian-Americans and 51 percent of whites.

“We found as the generations get younger, the support increases,” StudyLA Associate Director Brianne Gilbert said. “While all generations were supportive of their city being a sanctuary city, millennials were the most supportive, at 74 percent.”

The survey was conducted by telephone and online in January and February, among 1,200 Los Angeles city residents and 1,200 residents in the rest of the county. The poll has a margin of error of plus or minus 3 percentage points.

Trump Will Get No Help Deporting Immigrants from LAPD, Says Police Chief

November 17, 2016 by · Leave a Comment 

The Los Angeles Police Department will not actively help federal officials apprehend immigrants who are in the country illegally and are “low-level offenders,” even in the face of President-elect Donald Trump’s plans to deport up to 3 million immigrants who have committed crimes, Police Chief Charlie Beck said Tuesday.

The department will still cooperate with federal officials if the immigrant in custody has committed a “serious violent crime,” Beck told reporters at City Hall.

But “the use of local law enforcement for general deportation reasons for low-level offenders is not appropriate,” he said.

While not fitting the typical definition of a “sanctuary city” that shields undocumented immigrants from federal officials, Los Angeles has long had a policy of keeping local police work separate from that of federal immigration officials.

Beck said that as a local law enforcement agency, the police department’s primary goal is to ensure the safety of Angelenos, which depends on officers being trusted by the immigrant community.

“Over 500,000 Angelenos, people who live in Los Angeles, are undocumented immigrants,” Beck said. “I need their cooperation. I need them to work with their local police stations. I need them to be witnesses to violent crime. I need them to be part of the fabric of Los Angeles if we are to
keep this city safe.”

“For a local law enforcement agency to take on the role of immigration enforcement tears that fabric apart,” he said.

Beck said the department will keep people in custody no longer than the typical 48 to 72 hours, and will not honor requests by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials to detain people longer than that.

Beck said the department takes the position that these types of “ICE detainers have been shown to be illegal.”

The police department, however, will not hide the fact that an undocumented immigrant has been taken into custody, according to Beck.

Beck said the “system by which we run folks nationally for warrants notifies ICE automatically,” so they will still release people to immigration enforcement officials as long as they are in their custody, Beck said.

“If they (ICE officials) call, if they make contact, then we give them the release dates, but we don’t hold people past those release dates,” he said. “And if they bail out, they bail out.”

He said that while it would be a “big deal” if the department’s stance were to result in the city losing out on federal dollars, it will not influence whether he does “the right thing.”

“It’s a matter of principle,” he said. “This is a matter of what … is the core value of the Los Angeles Police Department, which I believe far transcends any other motivation.”

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