On Sept. 19, chants from outside the overflowing Long Beach City Hall could be heard throughout the almost eight hours it took the city council to hear a motion that would help its undocumented community.
“What do we want?”
“When do we want it?
“Sí se puede!”
“Let us in!”
“We want to see a real commitment that [the council members] are going to protect every resident,” Alex Montances of the Filipino Migrant Center said before the item was presented by the council. “Folks can say it’s symbolic, but it means more to us…. It is a show of support…. We understand that [Immigration and Customs Enforcement] will do whatever they can.”
The Long Beach Values Act of 2017 is a pledge to adopt and expand state Senate Bill 54, which protects undocumented people by prohibiting state personnel from sharing information with federal immigration enforcement agencies, such as ICE.
The Long Beach City Council voted, 7-1, with Councilman Daryl Supernaw absent and Stacy Mungo opposed to the item.
“I support Dreamers; I support state law, but I really wish we would follow our own process,” said Mungo, who wanted the item to go through the city’s legislative committee.
District 1 Councilwoman Lena Gonzalez, who put the motion on the agenda, specified that she wanted the policy to include protecting local Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals and Dreamer students, preventing future deportations of local residents, examining county partnerships, protecting the information of local immigrant residents and advocating for pro-immigrant policies.
“As the daughter of immigrants, myself, I know firsthand the value immigrants bring to the City of Long Beach,” Gonzalez said. “This is our sanctuary policy. Long Beach Values Act is what we are calling it…. Not only does it provide protections, it will provide resources for our immigrants.”
“DACA came forward as a response to Congress’ inability to pass a Dream Act,” District 7 Councilman Roberto Uranga said. “The Dream Act, as many of you might know, provides a pathway toward citizenship, something that I guess Congress has a hard time dealing with. But, I guess we are dealing with it now.”
After Donald Trump’s order via his Attorney General Jeff Sessions, to end DACA within six months, Dreamers are now in limbo, especially newer applicants.
“The repeal of DACA by the administration proposes to break up families and I think it’s absolutely the wrong way to go,” said District 8 Councilman Al Austin.
“DACA affects a lot of students who want to continue their education,” Uranga said. “There are some examples of people who have gone through our educational system and have become doctors, but are afraid to practice because of their status.”
The policy of the Long Beach Values Act, which is being written in collaboration with local immigrant rights organizations and educational institutions, will be presented to the council after 60 days.