LOS ANGELES (CN) - At the inaugural meeting of Los Angeles City Council’s Immigrant Affairs Committee, city leaders responded forcefully to President Donald Trump’s executive order on immigration, indicating the city will introduce a series of measures to resist efforts to deport undocumented immigrants.
Immigrant Affairs Committee Chairman and City Councilman Gilbert Cedillo welcomed comment from several members of the community Wednesday evening, hours after Trump announced that he would cut off federal funding to cities that refuse to follow federal immigration enforcement policies.
Many cities across the nation have refused to arrest and jail noncriminal undocumented immigrants, as states have no power to enforce immigration law.
“Now is the time to move,” Cedillo said told the meeting.
“As members of the Los Angeles City Council we truly believe that it is our responsibility to protect and enhance the quality of life for all residents of the city of Los Angeles, regardless of your national origin, your religion, your ethnic group, your language, your sexual orientation, your gender, your marital status or your immigration status.”
Trump and the Republicans have promised to tighten borders and get tough on people living in the United State illegally. So-called “sanctuary cities” permit criminals who should have been deported to remain in the country, Trump says.
Trump’s order states that sanctuary cities that refuse to cooperate are “not eligible to receive federal grants, except as deemed necessary for law enforcement purposes.”
More than $2 billion in annual federal tax dollars are at stake.
Trump also announced Wednesday that the United States will begin building a wall on the Mexican border, causing Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto to cancel a scheduled trip to the United States.
Los Angeles Deputy Police Chief Robert Arcos told the panel Wednesday evening that the LAPD will not enforce federal immigration laws to detain or remove undocumented immigrants from the country. People who are in the country illegally should be able to come forward if they witness a crime without fear of deportation, he said.
“Victims of crime, especially those who can be exploited because of their status and are vulnerable to harm, must not fear calling the police for help,” Arcos said.
In 1979, the LAPD issued Special Order 40, which bans officers from stopping people to check their immigration status.
Mayor Eric Garcetti has questioned the legality of Trump’s recent order. He said that if Trump deprives Los Angeles of federal tax money for failing to enforce federal immigration law, the city could make a constitutional claim under the 10th Amendment.
“We feel very strong the legal case is clear,” Garcetti told the Los Angeles Times.
Federal money accounted for almost $500 million of the city’s budget this fiscal year, for multiple services, including port security. The city receives additional federal money for Los Angeles Unified School District and Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority.
California is one of four states, including Connecticut, Rhode Island and Vermont, that provide statewide protections for undocumented immigrants. Hundreds of U.S. cities and counties provide protections for undocumented immigrants.
The Sanctuary City designation comes from the Sanctuary Movement of the 1980s, which sheltered Salvadoran and Guatemalan refugees at churches and private homes.
Lawmakers in Sacramento have hired President Obama’s former Attorney General Eric Holder as outside counsel as the state braces for legal battles with the Trump administration over the state’s environmental and immigration policies.
In his State of the State address this week, Gov. Jerry Brown cited state laws that prevent detention of immigrants and offer protective measures, including drivers licenses, access to higher education and workplace rights.
“We may be called upon to defend those laws, and defend them we will. And let me be clear: We will defend everybody - every man, woman, and child - who has come here for a better life and has contributed to the well-being of our state,” Brown said.
The Immigrant Affairs Committee’s agenda included discussion and approval of several items to protect the city’s estimated 1 million undocumented immigrants, including a proposed $2 million contribution to a legal defense fund.
The council has asked City Attorney Mike Feuer to report on the legal steps the city can take if sweeping changes to federal immigration policy threaten to increase deportations or acts of discrimination. The city plans to reaffirm its support for Special Order 40.
Councilwoman Nury Martinez said it is time to “get busy” and warned that Angelenos should “prepare for the worst.”
“We have no more time to waste on a man who has clearly shown to us and demonstrated to us what he is capable of doing and will continue to do,” Martinez said. “We need to get to work. We need to prepare our families. Prepare for the worst because he's already made a huge signal tonight of what he's intending to do to our families to our communities in this country.”