Long Beach Moves to Fill in Gaps and Strengthen Recently Passed Sanctuary State Bill

sanctuary city now

Demonstrators at a rally earlier this month calling for the city council to enact sanctuary protections in Long Beach. Photo by Jason Ruiz.

After the passage of the so-called Sanctuary State bill by the California Legislature late last week the Long Beach City Council passed a resolution overnight that could build off the protections provided under the bill for undocumented residents of the city.

Titled the Long Beach Values Act of 2017, the resolution affirms the city’s support for Senate Bill 54, which limits local governments’ cooperation with federal entities in policing immigration issues, something the city first announced support for in February.

The vote was cast just after 1:00AM Wednesday 7-1, with Fifth District Councilwoman Stacy Mungo dissenting during a marathon city council meeting. It directs the city manager to work with community groups, local school districts and immigrant rights groups to expand on the bill which still faces a potential veto by Gov. Jerry Brown. Brown has until October 15 to sign the bill into law.

“As a daughter of an immigrant myself I know the value that immigrant families bring to our city,” said First District Councilwoman Lena Gonzalez who authored the item. “Frankly if it wasn’t for my mother and grandmother’s sacrifice to come here, I certainly wouldn’t be sitting in this seat. I don’t think that they ever thought that as immigrants that their daughter, granddaughter, would now be pushing policies to protect our communities in that sense.”


 

Gonzalez was joined by council members Jeannine Pearce, Roberto Uranga and Vice Mayor Rex Richardson in sponsoring the item.

The item is due back to the council in 60 days but it’s unclear what provisions could be included in the policy that will be created. Amendments to SB-54 leading up to its passage Friday allow for local measures to have stricter controls regarding collaboration with federal entities.

Gonzalez’s item calls for the protection of student DACA recipients, often referred to as Dreamers, in the wake of President Donald Trump’s discontinuation of the Obama-era law that shielded children brought to the United States without documentation from deportation. It also calls for the prevention of future deportations of local residents as well as partnering with Los Angeles County for a local legal defense fund and the protection of immigrants’ information.


 

City leaders have faced mounting pressure from community groups and immigrant rights coalitions that have demanded stronger protections in Long Beach from the deportation forces promised by Trump during his presidential campaign. While supporting SB-54 in February, the council had been careful to take strong steps ahead of the state Legislature out of reservations that the president might deliver on another promise: to defund sanctuary cities that do not comply with federal immigration agents.

Stefan Borst-Censullo, a local lawyer and member of the Democratic Socialists of America Long Beach Chapter, one of the groups that have participated in protests calling for sanctuary status in Long Beach, said that a good law would do just that, evoke a federal response.

“To put it frankly, if we are not evoking federal response against the city it’s an inadequate policy,” Borst-Censullo said. “The federal government has made it clear that they’re going to be continuing on a race-based deportation strategy taking away residents of the city. They’re human beings with rights to exist without fear that if they complain about unsafe working conditions at their job that they could be facing deportation.”


 

One North Long Beach resident who identified herself as Neyreda, recounted the Bush-era immigration raids that resulted in a number of her neighbors being rounded up and deported. She said that that Long Beach still exists and pressed the council to pass measures that could bring a sense of calm to immigrant communities in the city that are currently living in limbo.

“Long Beach has never felt safe for me,” Neyreda said. “The worst thing a person could go through as an undocumented—my mom is undocumented and sister was undocumented—is to grow up knowing that one day my support system could be taken away from me is the worst thing that you could live through.”

The vote to approve the resolution and begin working toward a possibly stronger local policy was taken just after 1:00AM as previous items related to hotel workers’ protections and land use changes in Southeast Long Beach pushed the hearing originally scheduled for a “time certain” start of 7:00PM Tuesday to Wednesday morning.

Currently, the city complies with the California Trust Act which prohibits law enforcement from detaining a person for an immigration hold past the time they’re eligible for release from custody nor does the city’s police department hold persons on immigration violations. According to the city, eight people from Long Beach have been arrested in immigration operations since the summer of 2015, all of which were detained in an operation in May of this year.


 

During a routine traffic stop in August the Long Beach Police Department released a man into the custody of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) after finding an administrative warrant for his removal from the country. A subsequent investigation by the department found that administrative warrants differ from judicial warrants which are reviewed and issued by a judge, not by ICE, and has since advised officers of the difference between the two. A memo from the city manager’s office said that a hard policy on these types of situations is forthcoming as the issue is currently being reviewed by internal affairs.



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