Long Beach’s Road to Sanctuary Status

  • 03/22/2018
  • Terelle Jerricks

By Terelle Jerricks, Managing Editor

Long Beach took another step toward on March 13 the Long Beach City Council created a legal defense fund for immigrants facing deportation and passed a resolution that builds upon state laws banning local law enforcement from coordinating with federal immigration officers by expanding that to all city departments. It’s a sanctuary city.

Officially titled the Long Beach Values Act of 2018, the non-binding resolution puts the city’s support behind state legislation like Senate Bill 54, which legalized and standardized statewide policies of non-cooperation between California law enforcement agencies and federal immigration authorities.

Long Beach council members passed the measure, which had been in the works for a year, exactly one week after United States Attorney General Jeff Sessions filed suit against California, claiming it’s sanctuary stance is interfering with the federal government’s immigration policies.

At its essence, the Long Beach Values Act prohibits all city agencies from sharing personal information with United States Immigration Control and Enforcement (ICE).

But a majority of the large crowd residents who filed council chambers exhorted their representatives to imbue the resolution with even stronger protections through amendments that would eliminate a variety of so-called carve-outs — exceptions under which undocumented immigrants could still be deported.

The carve-outs in SB 54 are mostly violent felonies, including rape, hate crimes, torture and gang-related offenses. But many in attendance argued that other crimes in the bill, — such as vandalism, money laundering and felony driving under the influence — don’t belong there.

“Some of the carve outs and some of the crimes, I don’t see them reaching that level of having to be deported,’ said Councilmember Roberto Uranga. “For example…a DUI, embezzlement, forgery. I see those as perhaps white-collar type crimes and there are some people in jails now who I wish I could deport, who are white. You know, go back to Europe. Switzerland. Wherever.”

The council voted to provide $250,000 as potential seed money for a legal defense fund, mandating that a police department policy be distributed to the public and the department require all city department heads to sign a letter pledging to adhere to the resolution.

The fund would seek non-profits and philanthropic donations to reach the amount needed to fully represent the number of undocumented persons likely in Long Beach. To qualify for assistance a person would have to live in the city, have an income below 200 percent of the federal poverty level and be facing a number of immigration-related legal issues.

A separate motion for the funding mechanism of the legal aid fund was requested by Third District Councilwoman Suzie Price, who supported the protections of the act, but cited the city’s charter in stating that it was likely illegal for the city to use taxpayer dollars to defend non-city employees in individual suits. A separate report on the feasibility and funding opportunities for the legal defense fund is expected to come back before the council in the coming months.

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