LocationAlhambra , CA United States
The Alhambra City Council voted to consider a resolution declaring Alhambra a sanctuary city that will not assist in federal immigration enforcement.
The resolution was presented by six Alhambra High School students during the public comment period of Monday’s City Council meeting. If passed, the city of Alhambra would “provide protection” for all residents from discrimination and affirm their right to education and work, regardless of “immigration status, national origin, gender, sexual orientation, marital status, gender identity, language or disability” and other circumstances. The resolution also said that the city would provide information on the immigration and citizenship processes to residents.
The resolution would also prohibit Alhambra from using local police or other city resources to assist federal immigration authorities including Immigration and Customs Enforcement. The Alhambra Police Department would be prohibited from complying with ICE “detainer requests,” where local law enforcement holds an individual for a period of time to give ICE time to take them into custody. ICE would have to notify the City of Alhambra before they detain someone within the city. The city would take ICE to court if this condition is not met.
The federal government separated more than 2,000 children from their parents at the U.S.-Mexico border from May 5 to June 9, 2018, as part of the Trump administration’s “zero tolerance” immigration policy, according to the resolution. The students also cited a statistic that ICE has detained 4,219 undocumented immigrants without a criminal record every month during the Trump administration.
A little more than 50 percent of Alhambra’s population are of Asian origin and almost 40 percent are Latino, according to the 2017 American Community Survey. Almost 73 percent of Alhambra residents speak a language other than English.
The San Gabriel Valley cities of Pasadena, Baldwin Park and La Puente, Monterey Park and El Monte have passed some sort of sanctuary city policy. Los Angeles and San Francisco are two major California cities that have sanctuary policies to protect immigrants.
In addition to that, SB 54 or the California Values Act, limits the ability of local law enforcement agencies from engaging in immigration enforcement operations across the state.
Alhambra Police Chief Timothy Vu spoke before the Council, explaining that the Alhambra Police Department has a policy towards immigrants that complies with the California Values Act.
“It is the policy of the Alhambra Police Department that all members make personal and professional commitments to equal enforcement of the law and equal service to the public,” he said, reading from the department’s policy. “Confidence in that commitment will increase the effectiveness of this department, in protecting and serving the entire community and recognizing the dignity of all persons regardless of their national origin or immigration status.”
Vu said that Alhambra has no contract with ICE, does not honor detainer requests, does not devote resources to immigration investigations and does not ask people about their immigration status. He spoke about efforts by police to create a “community of trust,” most notably in changing the name of their “citizens academies,” which teaches residents about police department operations, to the more inclusive “community academies.” Last year, the department held community academies in Spanish and Chinese for the first time, along with their English-language academy.
Jose Sanchez, who teaches civics and government at Alhambra High School, introduced immigrant students who shared their stories in their presentation to the City Council, and an audience of Alhambra residents, city staff and the students’ classmates. Two students talked about their experience to show the sacrifices immigrants make to build a better life in America, and how policies in support of that can help them pursue their dreams.
First up was Hannah He who spoke in Mandarin Chinese and English about immigrating to the United States from China last year in order to get a better education. Her mother accompanied her, while her father stayed behind to work. She had to enter high school in the U.S. as a senior, and quickly had to learn how to speak English fluently and to navigate school and higher education. The challenges were worth it though, because they taught her what she was capable of accomplishing.
“From my perspective, ‘immigrant’ is a good label to have, because it gives me lots of courage to keep striving for a bright future,” she said. “Being an immigrant also gives me lots of inspiration to change and improve myself.”
When it was her turn to speak, Jammy Miguel told the story of her mother who grew up too poor to go to school in Guatemala and could only speak an indigenous Mayan language. As a child, she was made to work at the homes of local families doing a wide assortment of chores. As an adult, she traveled north to try to get to the United States and met Miguel’s father, who smuggled people over the border into the country. Deported five times, she eventually made it to Seattle where she worked for people who stole her wages. After bringing her to Los Angeles, Miguel’s father left her just before her daughter, Jammy, was born. Unable to read or write in English or Spanish, she and Jammy struggled in Southern California but she found work to bring in money.
“Her hard work of supporting me in school is now paying off, and in one month I’ll be graduating from high school and in the fall I plan on attending Cal State Dominguez Hills,” Miguel said to applause.
Sanchez then introduced four other students who read the resolution, reciting the statistics about immigrants detained and separated from their families by the Trump administration, and recalling historic examples of discrimination against immigrants, like the Chinese Exclusion Act and Japanese American internment during World War II. The students also cited statistics showing immigrants’ contributions to the economy, especially in industries that have a shortage of workers.
Mayor Adele Andrade-Stadler, Vice Mayor Ross Maza and Council member Katherine Lee praised the students for their civic engagement, and affirmed their commitment to making immigrants feel welcome in Alhambra. Council members Jeff Maloney and David Mejia were not present at the meeting.
“That’s what many immigrants come here for is to sacrifice for the children, so the young generation will have a future here,” Lee said, speaking from her experience about her parents, who gave up high-paying teaching jobs in Taiwan to support her and their family on minimum wage jobs sewing buttons on clothes when they came to America. Lee also talked about her struggle in learning English and adjusting to American culture when she moved to Alhambra. She also thanked the students for sharing their views and also thanked Police Chief Vu for explaining the Alhambra Police Department’s policy, noting that it already covers much of what the students’ resolution is seeking.
Maza also thanked the students and police chief for sharing and spoke briefly about his struggle to integrate into American society after immigrating from Guatemala at a young age. “I can relate to being there, not knowing the language, having to assimilate to a new country, new society, new culture.”
Andrade-Stadler also thanked the students for presenting, and made a motion to put consideration of a sanctuary city resolution on a future City Council agenda, which Maza and Lee voted to support.
If the council approves such a resolution it would follow on the action in 2017 by the Alhambra Unified School District Board of Education in passing a “safe haven” resolution, in which they pledged not to cooperate with federal authorities in immigration enforcement operations against district students. Adele-Stadler, then a member of the board, was instrumental in supporting this resolution. Alhambra High School went on to open a Dream Center to support their immigrant student population.
Sanchez shared that the students picked this topic on their own, because it was important to their own lives, but to the larger community as well.
“I think it’s an issue that hits home not just to probably everyone sitting in this room, but especially this community, where I’ve been teaching for 15 years now, and lived for over 10 years,” he said.
Read the Alhambra sanctuary city resolution written and presented by Alhambra High School students below.