With Pressure Mounting, City Council to Discuss Local Policy Protecting Undocumented Residents

First District Councilwoman Lena Gonzalez at a February 2017 press conference pushing for the city council to support Senate Bill 54. Photo: Jason Ruiz.

Long Beach may be on track to set its own policies to protect undocumented immigrants as the city council will consider an item at its September 19 meeting that will support state efforts to block deportations and potentially build on the so-called “Sanctuary State” bill.

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The agenda item, proposed by First District Councilwoman Lena Gonzalez, instructs the city attorney’s office to draft a resolution supporting Senate Bill 54, a state law yet to be signed by the governor, that would block California cities from aiding federal agencies in identifying and deporting undocumented immigrants.

“As the daughter of an immigrant, I know firsthand the value our immigrant community contributes to the fabric of our diverse city,” Gonzalez said in a statement posted to her Facebook page Friday afternoon. “The continued attack on DACA, and immigrants in general by this administration is not welcome in Long Beach and we will continue to create policies that protect people not misguided beliefs.”

The reaction seemingly came as a result of months of community pressure to institute a sanctuary city policy in Long Beach, one that culminated in a large rally at Harvey Milk Promenade Park last Thursday. Hundreds of Long Beach residents gathered at the park to demand the city take a local stance on the issue to protect its residents in danger of being deported.


 

Organizers of the Sanctuary Long Beach campaign released a statement ahead of next Tuesday night’s discussion praising Gonzalez and other council members who have signed on as sponsors (Jeannine Pearce, Roberto Uranga, Rex Richardson) for their “courage to propose protections for vulnerable residents.” The group pushed for other members of the council to vote yes on the item.

“For months, Long Beach residents have urged the City Council and Mayor to pass a local policy to prevent deportations and help protect vulnerable people like immigrants and our Muslim community,” organizers with Sanctuary Long Beach said in a statement. “Passing a citywide Sanctuary For All policy will ensure that Long Beach stands on the right side of history and values our community’s differences and diversity.”

Gonzalez first came out in support of the state bill in February, when she held a press conference inside city hall to call for support of the legislation that has since worked its way through the separate houses in the state.

Her item calls for support of the state bill if passed, but also instructs the city manager’s office to work with local immigrant and community groups as well as local colleges to compile a local policy that could potentially build on SB54.

That could include seeking out partnerships with Los Angeles County for a local legal defense fund, something that the county board of supervisors created earlier this year, to provide legal services to immigrant residents at risk of deportation.

State legislators and Gov. Jerry Brown also announced earlier this week a proposal to provide $20 million in assistance to undocumented immigrants to fund immigration legal services.

The item works off the assumption that SB54 will be passed by the state legislature before the legislative window closes Friday—the bill has yet to be voted on since it was last amended Monday—and that Governor Jerry Brown will approve the legislation by the October 15 deadline. Whether or not the city will pursue a similar policy as outlined in Gonzalez’s agenda item if SB54 is not approved by the state legislature or is vetoed by Brown was not immediately clear.


 

Gonzalez and her office were not available for comment on this story at the time of publication.

Adding to the uncertainty facing undocumented immigrants in the United States is a report published by The New York Times last night that President Donald Trump may have reached a deal with top Democrats on a package that would protect DACA recipients in exchange for “massive” increases in border security, ones that fall short of his campaign promise to build a wall on the country’s southern border with Mexico.

SB54 and a slew of other legislative challenges by the state were prompted by Trump’s promises to end the DACA program “on day one” of him being in office and various other threats to deport the estimated 11 million undocumented persons that live in the United States. Earlier this month, the President announced he was discontinuing the DACA program and providing a six-month window for Congress to legislate a permanent solution.

In a string of early morning Tweets, the president said no deal had been reached—something he later recanted—but appeared to express sympathy for those currently protected by DACA.

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