The republikkkans had campaigned as proud racists who will throw out immigrants. So it’s no surprise that the new bad president’s (NBP) new “homeland security” secretary, john kelly, told congress in January that immigration and customs enforcement agents (ICE, aka La Migra) and the border patrol would no longer be “kind of hobbled or, you know, hands tied behind their back.”
So in the past few months we have seen ICE agents stalking the LA courts to arrest people as they showed up for court dates, arresting people who showed up at ICE for scheduled renewal appointments, moving a critically ill Salvadoran woman awaiting brain surgery from a texas hospital to a detention center, deporting an arizona mother who had been in the country for 20 years, and conducting sweeps of immigrant communities on the pretext of arresting “criminals.” In contrast to second-term-obama policy, during these sweeps supposedly designed to arrest individuals with criminal warrants, ICE arrested many non-targeted people who were in the area and couldn’t prove they had documentation. On March 1, dreamer Daniela Vargas who had spoken at a rally about an ICE raid and detention of her father and brother, was arrested when she came to her appointment to renew her DACA (Deferred Action on Child Arrivals) status. (Public pressure and good lawyering caused her to be released on an “order of supervision” on March 10). It’s happening all over the country – a Pacifica high school student spoke in January about her fears for herself and other undocumented students and their families.
The NBP was not inaugurated without a fight, and much of the fight included the attacks on immigrants. In the Bay Area demonstrations on J20 and the Women’s Marches strongly focused on racism and attacks on immigrants and Muslims. The International Womens Day demonstration in SF marched to ICE, demanding that the ICE jail be removed from this sanctuary city. In Oakland, the IWD march went to the Alameda County Sheriff to demand that he stop cooperating with ICE.
But the party was on and, as promised, the new administration started with immigrants and Muslims. One week after the inauguration the NBP sprung a Muslim ban trap, catching many people in transit – held in tsa areas of airports, or prohibited from boarding flights. All across the country, from LA to Boston, Dallas to Seattle, airports and roads were blocked. At SFO thousands of us filled two levels of the international terminal (IT) on January 28 and 29, led by the Arab Resource and Organizing Center (AROC) and the Alliance of South Asians Taking Action (ASATA). (It turns out that when the SF government makes a decision to hold back the cops, the airport can be a very convenient place to demonstrate, easily accessible by public transit and parking, plentiful bathrooms, and an impromptu food table that stretched outside the terminal from one entrance to the next.) Across the country, volunteer attorneys helped travelers. States, cities and non-profits including the ACLU filed lawsuits. The federal courts eventually stayed that ban, and also stayed a subsequent ban issued March 6 to take effect March 16.
On February 16, immigrants stayed home from work, businesses closed, and students stayed home or walked out of schools in the Bay Area and across the country in the Day Without Immigrants.
The Public Policy Institute has estimated that there are 5.4 million people living in California who are not citizens, of whom 3 million are undocumented immigrants. The California legislature has therefore promised to take on both the Muslim ban and ICE actions against immigrants. Three major bills were introduced this year. SB 54 would improve the 2013 “Trust Act” by prohibiting local governments from participating in immigration enforcement or detaining someone on an immigration hold. Unfortunately, it would require state prison authorities to notify the FBI when someone convicted of a “violent felony” is going to be released, and would permit a county sheriff to notify the FBI of the pending release of someone previously convicted of a “violent felony,” but who is currently convicted of a misdemeanor. The only official opposition to SB 54 is the california sheriff’s association and the california peace officers association.
Another bill, SB 6 would appropriate money to the state department of social services to contract with legal services organizations to provide assistance to detained people facing removal (deportation) actions. SB 31 would prohibit public agencies from providing personal information to a database based on religion, national origin, or ethnicity for immigration or law enforcement purposes.
Generally, a sanctuary city or county policy provides some protection for undocumented immigrants, refugees or asylum seekers, by limiting the actions local law enforcement, schools, or government agencies will take. Commonly, sanctuary ordinances prohibit local law enforcement from taking on immigration duties, including arresting people on the basis of their known or suspected immigration status. The NBP has announced plans to deputize large numbers of local law enforcement to act as border patrol or ICE agents. That idea was announced after his plan to mobilize the national guard to protect the borders or arrest immigrants didn’t find much traction.
There are two other major ways in which jails cooperate with ICE. First, federal law requires counties to submit the fingerprints of arrested people to the FBI, which maintains a national database. The FBI sends those fingerprints to ICE. This then enables ICE to submit a detainer request to the jail. This practice, which may violate the 4th and 5th amendments, asks the jail to hold the person for an additional 48 hours past when the person was eligible for release, so that ICE can detain or arrest the person. Sanctuary cities and counties generally prohibit holding a person in custody for the purpose of immigration, but some do not prevent local law enforcement from informing ICE that a person is due to be released.
ICE can also request to interview an incarcerated person for the purpose of determining immigration status. Legally, the person’s participation in the interview is “voluntary,” just as voluntary as most things are for people in prison. Only a few local ordinances prohibit ICE from using the jail to interview the people incarcerated there.
Many local governments in California have long-standing sanctuary policies dating back to the need to protect refugees from El Salvador, Guatemala, Nicaragua, Haiti, and South Africa. San Francisco became one of the first sanctuary cities in 1985, to protect people seeking asylum from El Salvador and Guatemala. It has been broadened several times since, but it still currently permits some notifications of ICE. Until February, San Francisco had also participated in a joint task force with the federal homeland security department. In 1986 Oakland had adopted a City of Refuge ordinance to protect refugees from Haiti, El Salvador, Nicaragua and South Africa. This ordinance was expanded in 2008. Oakland is now also considering withdrawing from a joint task force with homeland security. In January, Santa Ana, a city in Orange County that is 46 percent immigrants, adopted one of the strongest sanctuary ordinances in California to date.
Other California counties with a policy that does not fully cooperate with ICE include: Sonoma, Napa, Sacramento, Contra Costa, Alameda, Santa Clara, Santa Cruz, Monterey, San Bernardino, Los Angeles, Riverside, Orange, and San Diego as well as the city of Berkeley. In Santa Cruz this year police cooperated with ICE and other federal agencies in what were represented as “gang raids.” During those raids, at least 10 immigrants who were not involved in the criminal warrants were detained on immigration charges. Santa Cruz authorities claim that homeland security lied to them about the raids. Santa Cruz has had a sanctuary city policy for 30 years.
The City of Pacifica is in San Mateo County, a county which is now one-third immigrants of whom an estimated 57,000 are undocumented. In February, the San Mateo County Board of Supervisors adopted an ordinance affirming that they support all community members, “regardless of ethnic or national origin, gender, race, religion, sexual orientation or immigration status.” The ordinance prohibits the use of county resources for immigration enforcement, but still permits ICE into the jail, and still permits county employees including sheriffs to cooperate with ICE for “the protection of public safety.”
This January, a network of groups formed the Pacifica Progressive Alliance, which includes a new group, Pacifica Social Justice. PSJ is working on ways to resist ICE. We have started a petition campaign to get a sanctuary city ordinance. Pacifica’s school districts (yes, there are two in this small town of 40,000), have both adopted resolutions prohibiting sharing of student information with immigration.
Several other cities in San Mateo County are also working on becoming sanctuaries. In February Daly City adopted a resolution “affirming commitment to support all community members irrespective of immigration status,” but refused to designate Daly City as a sanctuary city. Also in January, Redwood City jointed the “welcoming cities initiative,” a warm and fuzzy declaration about everyone being welcome, but with no actual policy or teeth. The welcoming cities initiative is, no surprise, funded by the clinton foundation.
The NBP has issued an executive order banning federal funding to “sanctuary cities.” It is unlikely that this order is legal, since there is a 2012 court decision limiting the federal government’s ability to deny funds. Several cities, including San Francisco, have sued the federal government over this order, arguing that even the threat is damaging.
In some states, such as texas, the governors or legislators are taking action against sanctuary cities, or passing laws that require cities to cooperate with ICE.
The Bay Area and Los Angeles have had “Migra Watch” type programs for several years. These programs include a hotline, legal observers, and lawyers. A person who is confronted by ICE is advised NOT to open the door or talk with them, but to pass the ICE agents a card asserting their constitutional rights to not talk with them and to due process. Targeted people should notify the hotline. The hotline will dispatch one or more legal observers to verify that there is indeed an ICE action. If there is, the goal is to document what the ICE agents do, in order to provide evidence that may be used to throw out the arrest, and to publicize abuses. If a person is detained, the hotline will try to locate the person in the system, and dispatch a lawyer to represent them. ICE generally manages to arrest people without a court order (sometimes using an “administrative warrant”), and people who appear before the immigration court judges rarely have legal representation.
San Francisco has authorized over $3 million to be paid to non-profits for immigration defense. Recently, mayor lee agreed to a very small $200,000 increase to the public defender’s budget to provide legal support. A similar program in New York City represented 2000 people in the first 3 years. During those years, deportations were reduced from 1200 per year to 500. According to public defender Jeff Adachi, San Francisco is home to 100,000 noncitizens, of whom 44,000 are undocumented.
In California, at least compared to texas, we are relatively lucky. The state legislature may weaken SB 54 but at this time they are unlikely to prohibit sanctuary city policies. The campaigns for sanctuary city ordinances then provide a chance to meet people in our geographic communities, and discuss how we can effectively stop ICE. Fighting ICE on your, or your neighbor’s, doorstep is not ideal. We must find ways to prevent ICE from even heading our way, including ways to take direct action that don’t jeopardize people targeted by ICE, possibly by blocking their vehicles at the ICE office, rather than once they are in our communities.