Sanctuary Showdown

The California city of Oakland positions itself to take on the federal government as the city council voted to end cooperation with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). The council’s legislation echoes state moves implementing a “sanctuary” designation across the entire state effective January 1.

On the city level, representatives clarified the position of non-cooperation with ICE from the Oakland Police Department, which includes providing traffic support. In 2017, the police department provided traffic support for ICE agents carrying out a raid. A person detained in the raid now faces deportation.

On the state level, Gov. Jerry Brown signed Senate Bill 54 last fall as a “far-reaching measure aimed at preventing law enforcement officials from helping to carry out Trump’s promised crackdown on illegal immigration,” according to a report in The Santa Cruz Sentinel. “The raids would again pit left-leaning California against U.S. immigration officials intent on doubling down on fighting illegal immigration and could be the first big test of the state’s new sanctuary legislation.”

City Councilwoman Rebecca Kaplan introduced the Oakland legislation, saying “It is not acceptable for the Oakland administration to collude with ICE, as this federal agency is targeting non-criminals, harassing people based on their national origin and undermining our justice system.”

Kaplan cites broadcast comments where Acting Director Thomas Homan said, “California better hold tight,” and that “if California lawmakers don’t want to protect their communities, then ICE will.”

On top of this, Oakland’s top executive, Mayor Libby Schaaf, emphasized the city’s official position by saying she’s willing to take on jail time for her opposition to ICE raids.

“We’re very clear that our values are to protect all of our residents regardless of where we come from. We want to protect families, not tear them apart,” Schaaf says.

University of San Francisco law professor Bill Hing says the Trump Administration’s ongoing criticisms of sanctuary jurisdictions means “we’ve been waiting for more raids and  them wanting to make an example of those jurisdictions.”

Those likely in ICE sights include immigrants who’ve missed scheduled deportation hearings. Agents look for these targets by searching homes and places of employment. With this, says Hing, the “collateral” domino falls.

“When they’re there, they’re going to ask everybody else for their documents,” which leads to “collateral arrests,” says Hing. “It might get ugly.”

On another geopolitical level, the showdown between sanctuary jurisdictions willing to disregard immigration status against a federal policy bent on immigration enforcement, central questions around state’s rights and federal interdiction– the same questions central during the Civil War– emerge.

“We are exercising our legal right to be a Sanctuary City and to protect our residents,” Mayor Schaaf says. “The fact that the federal government is suggesting that it is actively retaliating against jurisdictions that are exercising their right to have sanctuary policies– that is what is illegal.”

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