Oakland Calls on California to Become a Sanctuary State

OAKLAND, Calif. (CN) – In the wake of President-elect Donald Trump’s vow to yank federal funding from cities that don’t comply with his administration’s plan to deport millions of undocumented immigrants, the Oakland City Council reaffirmed its status Tuesday as a sanctuary city and asked California Gov. Jerry Brown to declare the entire state a sanctuary for undocumented immigrants.

If Trump follows through on his promise, Oakland could lose up to $140 million in federal aid it uses to pay for homeless shelters and preschool programs. San Francisco and Los Angeles, also sanctuary cities, would face even steeper cuts, with San Francisco losing up to $1 billion and Los Angeles up to $500 million for everything from antiterrorism programs to HIV and AIDS services.

Despite Trump’s threat to pull sanctuary cities’ funding, the Oakland City Council voted unanimously Tuesday to reaffirm its declaration as a sanctuary city – where local police are prohibited from fully cooperating with federal immigration officials – in an effort to ease fears it says Trump has stoked in the immigrant community.

It joins sanctuary cities across the nation, including Chicago, Minneapolis and New York, that have declared in recent weeks they won’t comply with the Trump administration’s deportation orders.

“So many people are fearful; I have never seen that after an election,” Councilwoman Desley Brooks said at Tuesday’s meeting. “We have to pass this resolution and every other one that speaks to the violence he’s going to do to our community.”

The Trump transition team did not respond to a request for comment on the council’s vote.

Oakland’s resolution bars its police department from conducting immigration raids and turning over undocumented immigrants to federal authorities unless criminal activity is involved. But the city’s refusal to cooperate isn’t new, having first declared itself a sanctuary city in 1986. What is new is its call on state legislators to declare all of California a sanctuary for undocumented immigrants and to use the state’s “economic leverage to protect our cities from sanctions.”

Jessica Vaughan, director of policy studies at the Center for Immigration Studies, a Washington-based group that supports reduced immigration, said in an email Tuesday that asking the state to help sanctuary cities make up their federal funding will hurt taxpayers.

“The taxpayers of California should not have to underwrite the sanctuaries,” Vaughan said. “They are already paying more for welfare programs, health care, education, social services and especially criminal-justice costs when criminal aliens who should be sent home are instead released back into the community.”

According to Vaughan, the Trump administration has several options for dealing with California if it declares itself a sanctuary state – including suing to block the law, passing federal legislation and even prosecuting individual jurisdictions.

A ballot initiative to reverse the law would also be in the cards, which could pass in light of the fact that a recent UC Berkeley survey found 74 percent of Californians oppose sanctuaries, Vaughan said.

“Sanctuary policies are a magnet for illegal immigration, and should not be tolerated at all,” she said.

Controversial sanctuary laws have been in place around the United States since the 1980s, to encourage undocumented immigrants to report crimes without fear of deportation.

But the laws are again under scrutiny following the 2015 murder of 32-year-old Kathryn Steinle, who prosecutors say was shot to death while walking along San Francisco’s Pier 14 with her father by an undocumented immigrant with multiple felony convictions and deportations.

Steinle’s parents blame San Francisco’s sanctuary law for their daughter’s death, since the county sheriff’s office had released the suspect after a prior hold without telling Immigration and Customs Enforcement, which had asked that it be notified of his release so it could deport him. Steinle was killed two months later.

Recounting Steinle’s death from the campaign trail, Trump promised to block federal funding to sanctuary cities and press Congress to enact legislation imposing stiff sentences on undocumented immigrants with criminal records caught reentering the United States.

After his election, Trump said his administration will deport up to three million undocumented immigrants who have been convicted of crimes, though he earlier suggested deporting all 11 million undocumented immigrants currently in the United States.

“We will end the sanctuary cities that have resulted in so many needless deaths,” Trump told supporters in Phoenix this past August. “Cities that refuse to cooperate with federal authorities will not receive taxpayer dollars, and we will work with Congress to pass legislation to protect those jurisdictions that do assist federal authorities.”

In remarks before Tuesday’s vote, several Oakland City Council members tacitly acknowledged the difficulty they in getting California declared a sanctuary state – and in Oakland remaining a sanctuary city – if the Trump administration blocks their funding, but said the resolution was a signal of their intentions to work toward those goals.

“There is going to be a lot of work we have to do,” said Councilmember Abel Guillen. “This is the first step of many we need to take to ensure the most vulnerable amongst us are protected.”

Oakland won’t be fighting alone, however. In an email Tuesday, Rep. Barbara Lee, a Democrat who represents Oakland in Congress, said she would work at the federal level to preserve sanctuary cities.

“Sanctuary cities, like Oakland, protect families and build trust between law enforcement and the communities they serve,” Lee said. “Although President-elect Trump and congressional Republicans will attempt to roll back the clock on progress, I will continue to fight against policies that tear families apart.”

 

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