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San Gabriel City Council passes resolution affirming the safety of undocumented immigrants

Supporters of San Gabriel's resolution safeguarding the rights of immigrants. Photo by Phoenix Tso

Location

San Gabriel , CA United States

The San Gabriel City Council passed a resolution on Tuesday night prohibiting city agencies and personnel from requesting and sharing information about a person’s immigration status while providing a city service.

Passed in a 3-2 vote, the intent of the resolution was to make it safe for undocumented immigrants to report crimes to local police, to allow the city to provide resources for immigrants and to bolster the local economy by reaffirming San Gabriel as a city that welcomes immigrants.

“So what we need to recognize is that a large portion of our community is immigrant, whether documented or undocumented, and the current atmosphere creates this fear and distrust,” said Councilmember Jason Pu, describing a political climate of increased anti-immigrant sentiment and ICE raids in the area after the election of President Trump.

This resolution was modeled off of California sanctuary state law SB 54, which prohibits state and local law enforcement agencies from engaging in immigration enforcement with some exceptions.

Supporters of the resolution emphasized its intent of making immigrants feel safe in such a climate.

“Because of resolutions like this, I’m able to say, ‘The police care about you, the police care about public safety first,’ ” said Jonathan Fung, director of legal services at the Immigration Resource Center of San Gabriel Valley. He spoke about clients who were victims of crimes like sexual abuse and fraud and who were afraid to speak out as a result.

Opponents of the resolution claimed that the City Council rushed it onto agenda without consulting residents first, that it wasn’t needed because of SB 54 and that it violated federal law and sheltered criminals.

“Do not handcuff our police department from reducing crime in the City of San Gabriel,” said Chuck Sances, reading from remarks that he said were from an immigrant friend.

Pu first mentioned putting a sanctuary city resolution on the agenda after the San Gabriel City Council terminated an agreement that the police department made with ICE, a measure that Police Chief Eugene Harris said was necessary in investigating certain complex crimes.

Harris testified at Tuesday’s City Council meeting that the resolution would codify longstanding police department policy to not ask people about their immigration status while investigating a crime.

Councilmembers Denise Menchaca and Chen Ho Liao joined Pu in supporting the resolution, with Menchaca pointing to some comments residents made during the meeting as a factor in sowing fear in the immigrant community.

“The stereotypes, the hatred, the fears that somehow immigrants are the only ones who commit crimes — what happened to compassion?” she asked.

Liao responded to claims that residents hadn’t been consulted about the resolution by talking about the wishes of the city’s sizable Asian population and business community, calling them “the silent population here in San Gabriel.”

Mayor John Harrington and Councilmember Juli Costanzo opposed the measure, saying that the resolution didn’t actually accomplish anything beyond what the City of San Gabriel was already practicing.

Harrington went further to characterize the resolution as giving immigrants a false sense of security in terms of federal law, as well as creating a false fear that the local police was out to get them in the first place.

“I do not think it’s good that the city has to resort to pandering and fear-mongering,” he said.

Updated April 4, 2018 at 2:57 p.m. with additional quotes from residents and City Council members.

1 thought on “San Gabriel City Council passes resolution affirming the safety of undocumented immigrants”

  1. I’m proud of the San Gabriel city council for having the courage to pass this resolution. We must embrace our immigrant communities. No member of society should live in fear.

    Except for the Native American populations, all Americans are the product of immigrants who came to this country both legally and illegally.

    I hope other cities will pass similar resolutions.

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