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3 City Council members want a law designating L.A. a ‘sanctuary city’

Shortly after President Trump took office, Los Angeles immigration groups demanded City Hall designate LA as a safe haven for immigrants in light of his promised crackdown.

The Los Angeles City Council eventually passed a resolution declaring LA a “sanctuary city”—a symbolic gesture that offered no legal protection.

Now Councilors Eunisses Hernandez, Hugo Soto-Martinez and Nithya Raman want to strengthen LA’s immigration laws. They announced on Tuesday they would seek passage of an ordinance that would declare LA a “sanctuary city” and ban city personnel or resources from being used in federal immigration enforcement.

If passed, the law would be broadly similar to that in San Francisco. It prohibits city employees from using city funds or resources to assist U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement officers in enforcing federal immigration laws, unless such assistance is required by federal or state law.

Raman said her office was working with immigration lawyers and others on the proposed bill. Some leaders of those groups told The Times they are looking forward to next year’s presidential election.

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, a presumptive Republican nominee, has focused on the crackdown on people in the country without authorization.

“We want to make sure LA is ready for a worst-case scenario,” said Shiu-Ming Cheer, deputy director of programs and campaigns at the California Immigrant Policy Center.

The law the three council members were pushing for would codify existing policies, including a 2017 executive directive issued by then-mayor Eric Garcetti that prohibits all city employees from using public facilities or resources to assist or cooperate with the federal civilian immigration enforcement.

The proposed law would also deny federal immigration authorities or other entities related to immigration enforcement access to city databases or anyone’s personal information.

The proposal follows moves by the LA County Board of Supervisors, which voted in 2020 to ban the transfer of prisoners to ICE custody unless authorities have a court order.

The council members’ motion asks the city attorney to prepare a draft ordinance within 60 days that, to the extent permitted by law, prohibits the use of city resources, property, or personnel to be used for federal immigration enforcement.

Councilman Hernandez’s office said in a press release that “city and internal LAPD policies still allow ICE officers to access city jails to question people in LAPD custody, and allow LAPD officers to transfer individuals under certain circumstances.” to ICE custody even if no court orders are issued.” The new regulation tries to limit those interactions.

The Los Angeles Police Department declined to answer questions about its policy.

The Times also sent several questions to ICE about its practices. In response, the agency said its operations are “focused on smart, effective immigration enforcement that protects the homeland through the arrest and removal of those who undermine the security of our communities and the integrity of our immigration laws.”

Following Trump’s election and pledge to deport migrants, mayors in Boston, Chicago and elsewhere reaffirmed their cities as sanctuaries, and the California legislature passed a state law aimed at protecting immigrants.

LA’s efforts to establish itself as a haven have come in fits and starts. The city set aside $2 million for a legal defense fund in 2017 to pay attorneys for individuals and families who are detained or at risk of eviction.

City leaders also introduced a resolution that year to declare LA a “city of refuge,” calling it a direct response to Trump’s efforts to wind down a program that protects immigrants illegally brought to the US as children.

However, it took the city two years to vote on the resolution, and by then immigrant advocates said the statement had lost meaning.

President Biden has reversed a number of previous immigration policies, but also drew criticism for proposals that immigration groups say would mirror Trump’s crackdown.

At the same time, ICE’s monitoring capabilities have been expanded. The agency has partnered with third-party vendors to collect data from utilities and private databases, according to findings from a two-year study published last year by the Georgetown Law Center for Privacy and Technology.

For example, the report found that ICE has driver’s license data on three out of four adults living in the US and can track vehicle traffic in cities where nearly 75% of adults live.

Albert Fox Cahn, executive director of the Surveillance Technology Oversight Project, said declarations of “sanctuary city” labels are “empty rhetoric” unless cities and counties also ensure that ICE cannot access large amounts of data provided by those municipalities. collected.

The group has filed a lawsuit against a third-party supplier in a California federal case.

“We encourage cities to analyze city data and how it is stored and whether it is susceptible to warrants,” said Cahn.

Raman said in a brief interview that she and the other council members want the city to determine what data, if any, will be shared. “The issue that (lawyers) raise about data is absolutely correct,” she said.

Federation for American Immigration Reform spokesman Ira Mehlman predicted that the proposal, if passed, would put a strain on LA’s education and health care system.

“People tend to flock to areas where they know there is no cooperation with federal immigration authorities,” said Mehlman, who called the proposal “costly” to taxpayers.

The phrase “sanctuary city” dates back to the 1980s, when US immigration policy allowed some Central American immigrants but not others. In response, Berkeley and a few other municipalities declared themselves “sanctuary cities” to take in those migrants.

A divided LA City Council passed a resolution in 1985 declaring Los Angeles a haven for immigrants fleeing political persecution and violence, particularly refugees from El Salvador and Guatemala.

After a council member threatened a ballot measure to overturn the resolution, the council watered it down and dropped the phrase “city of sanctuary”.

Instead, the council voted to instead reaffirm a policy that prohibits city employees from considering anyone’s “refugee or resident status” before providing city services.