A new group of five Emeryville City Councilmembers convened last night for the first Council meeting of 2017. Councilmembers Bauters, Medina and Patz were all officially sworn in at the December 6th Council meeting, joining newly appointed Mayor Scott Donahue and 2016 Mayor Dianne Martinez. The four-hour plus meeting was generally very business like, attending to matters like reports, procedures and other menial civic matters. The headline grabbing item was probably Emeryville’s resolution to become a Sanctuary or “Welcoming” City. The policy was initiated by Councilmember Martinez in the wake of the stunning victory of Donald Trump and assembled in a subcommittee consisting of Councilmembers Bauters and Medina.
Sanctuary Cities were used as a Presidential election talking point after the tragic killing of 32-year-old Kathryn Steinle. Steinle was shot in San Francisco by a man who had seven felony convictions and had been deported back to his homeland of Mexico on five different occasions. Trump attributed Steinle’s death to SF’s sanctuary status and has vowed to crack down on illegal immigration that he attributes to higher crime and the dedication of billions of dollars in resources.
Emeryville took a preemptive move yesterday to not comply with Trump’s agenda by joining neighboring Oakland, Berkeley and SF as a Sanctuary or “Welcoming” City. Much of the resolution is a largely symbolic by acknowledging our commitment to being an inclusive community and by condemning acts of intolerance. The “controversial” part of the policy is creating a local law-enforcement and staff policy to not comply with Federal Immigration laws of reporting or tracking the immigration status of those they interface with. Some argue that Sanctuary policies actually make cities safer as undocumented residents are more likely to comply with local law enforcement efforts if they trust they will not be subject to deportation.
The State of California is bracing to fight some of the policies that Trump has touted during his campaign and have retained the services of former Obama administration Attorney General Eric Holder’s firm. There are as many as 2.67 million people of undocumented immigration status living in California according to The Public Policy Institute of California. This figure makes up over 1/4 of the undocumented population in the U.S. and 6% of California’s population. An estimated 130,ooo undocumented residents reside in Alameda County. There are more than 300 cities in the U.S. that have some form of sanctuary policy on their municipal code.
Additional declarations of Emeryville’s Welcoming City resolution:
- City employees will serve all residents, and city services will be accessible to all residents regardless of immigration status;
- The City of Emeryville will not inquire upon a resident’s immigration status in either the provision of municipal services or in the course of law enforcement;
- As a Welcoming City, the City of Emeryville will have policies that instruct employees to refuse the application of any request from a state or federal agency that requires the identification of a resident’s immigration status, leaving that determination to federal authorities;
- The City of Emeryville shall refuse any requests that are an extension of any federal immigration policy enforcement actions to federal authorities and shall not enter into any agreements to carry out such federal enforcement actions or dedicate any City time or resources to such enforcement, but leave such actions to federal authorities;
- The City of Emeryville strongly condemns any and all statements by other elected officials or members of the public that promote or provoke hate, xenophobia, intolerance or racism against any person or persons on account of their immigration status, ethnicity, nationality or place or origin.
The application of Sanctuary status in a town like Emeryville is a bit different than our neighbors as we do not have any historic ethnic neighborhoods. A vast majority of police engagements in our city are known to be with non-residents as a retail and job center with a daytime population up to four times that of residents. “Local police are not an arm of the Federal Government and do not enforce immigration laws” noted Emeryville Police Chief Jennifer Tejada who noted the policy would have little to no impact on her force’s efforts. “We don’t inquire as to a person’s immigration status, nor do we report a person’s immigration status upon arrest. It is our policy to make personal and professional Commitments to equal enforcement of the law and equal service to members of the public. We protect and serve the entire community and recognize the dignity of all persons, regardless of their immigration status.”
The risk of adopting this policy is that Trump has threatened to deny federal funding to sanctuary cities. In the event that Emeryville ever requires disaster relief from earthquake or flooding, Trump could prioritize aid based on a city’s compliance with federal law. Vice-Mayor Bauters dismissed the likelihood of the feds refusing a city federal FEMA aid in the advent of a natural disaster as “political suicide”. Emeryville received $1.37 million in federal funding last year including $600K from the Department of Homeland Security.
The resolution also pledges the City to further review its policies to ensure that they reflect Emeryville’s status as a Welcoming City, including the possibility of revision to other City policies such that they comply with the spirit and intent of this Resolution. Emeryville’s resolution and staff report can be read in the meeting agenda (Item 9.4).