Could Los Angeles become a sanctuary city for immigrants?

Could Los Angeles become a sanctuary city for immigrants?

Hoping to make the City of Angels a true “sanctuary city” for immigrants, three members of the Los Angeles City Council have proposed legislation to turn into permanent law an existing policy that prohibits city staff from taking part in, or using city resources to aid, any federal immigration enforcement activity.

Former Mayor Eric Garcetti issued an executive directive in 2017 limiting the city’s involvement with federal immigration agents. Later, the City Council passed a resolution declaring L.A. a “City of Sanctuary.” Rules for how L.A. deals with immigration authorities are also outlined in policies set by the Los Angeles Police Department.

But unless these policies are codified into law, they’re subject to the whims of future city officials and could be scrapped.

So on Tuesday, March 7, Councilmembers Nithya Raman, Eunisses Hernandez and Hugo Soto-Martinez introduced a motion that would direct the city attorney to draft an ordinance prohibiting any city resources, property or personnel from being used for immigration enforcement or to cooperate with federal immigration authorities in that context — to the extent allowed by law.

Raman immigrated to the United States at age 6, and Hernandez and Soto-Martinez are both children of immigrant parents.

“Symbolic gestures are not enough. Internal policies that can be changed from one day to the next are not enough,” Hernandez said during a news conference Tuesday morning outside City Hall. “Our families deserve safety and security. They deserve to go to work, to take their children to school, without fear that they will be separated from their families.”

L.A. is home to more than 1.35 million immigrants – just over a third of its population, and the majority of students in the L.A. metro area have at least one immigrant parent, according to the motion the councilmembers introduced Tuesday.

But they and immigrant rights advocates say many families live in fear of deportation, and that legislation to provide permanent protections for immigrants are long overdue.

The council motion calls for a draft ordinance to be presented to the council within 60 days, which would prohibit city employees, unless required, from:

– Inquiring or collecting information about an individual’s immigration or citizenship status, or their place of birth,  to provide them city services;

– Investigating, interrogating, detaining, arresting, transferring or refusing to release someone for immigration enforcement purposes;

– Responding to any civil immigration warrant or request to detain, transfer or notify federal authorities about an individual’s release;

– Granting access to non-public areas, including jails, to immigration authorities unless they have a valid search warrant or arrest warrant issued by a federal district judge or magistrate;

– Making individuals in city custody available to federal immigration agents for interviews;

– Participating in any operation involving immigration enforcement; and

– Providing access to city databases or an individual’s personal information to federal immigration authorities or companies performing immigration enforcement.

The motion would address what the councilmembers view as gaps in existing policy.

Currently, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement officers can still access jails to interrogate someone under the custody of the Los Angeles Police Department, and LAPD officers can hand someone over to ICE under some scenarios.

Shiu-Ming Cheer, deputy director of programs and campaigns for the California Immigrant Policy Center, said the last few years have shown what can happen “when an anti-immigrant Republican gets elected president,” presumably in reference to former President Donald Trump.

“We must be better prepared now for any change and who governs” in the future, Cheer said.

The motion will be considered by the City Council’s Civil Rights, Equity, Immigration, Aging and Disability Committee before it will come to the full City Council for a vote.