Council Makes Island City a Sanctuary City

 

Both the City of Alameda and the Alameda Board of Education expressed their commitment to declare the city and its schools a safe haven for individuals regardless of their national origin at respective meetings earlier this month.   

The Alameda City Council voted unanimously at its Jan. 17 meeting to declare Alameda a “Sanctuary City.” The vote did not include Mayor Trish Spencer because she was attending a mayor’s conference in Washington, D.C. The decision declares Alameda a city that values the “dignity, inclusivity and respect for all individuals, regardless of ethnic or national origin, gender, race, religious affiliation, sexual orientation or immigration status.” 

The Alameda Unified School District (AUSD) Board of Education unanimously expressed its support of a similar resolution that would declare Alameda schools a “safe haven” for students at its Jan. 10 meeting — the board voted on the resolution at its Jan. 24 meeting.  

“Following the election, fears that certain groups of people might be targeted or deported have increased in our city,” said City Manager Jill Keimach at the meeting. 

On Trump’s campaign website, it states “anyone who enters the U.S. illegally is subject to deportation.” However, in a 60 Minutes interview in November he said he would make a determination on the other undocumented immigrants once a border wall is in place. 

Many cities around the country responded with the formation or reaffirmation of Sanctuary City status before his inauguration. Alameda declaring itself a “Sanctuary City” means the city will not use local services or employees to notify federal agencies of undocumented immigrants living in the city. The school system will do the same.

Keimach stated that the city will continue its police policy involving undocumented immigrants. APD Policy 428 states that it is not necessary to notify Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) when booking arrestees at the county jail. It also states that no individual who is otherwise ready to be released should continue to be detained solely for the purpose of making notification to immigration authorities. In addition, officers should not detain any individual, for any length of time, for a civil violation of federal immigration laws or a related civil warrant. ICE relies upon local law enforcement to arrest and detain undocumented individuals.

Some residents fear that such a policy will harbor criminals in Alameda. Alameda resident Brian Kennedy cited the case of 32-year-old Kate Steinle, of San Francisco, at the meeting. Stienle died in July 2015 in San Francisco after she was hit by a ricocheted bullet allegedly fired by Juan Francisco Lopez-Sanchez, an illegal immigrant from Mexico. 

Supporters of Sanctuary City policies argue that cities have local obligations. They say that diverting local resources to support the enforcement of federal programs designed to deter or discourage unauthorized immigration would undermine community relations, disrupt municipal services, interfere with local law enforcement or violate humanitarian principles. 

However, there are risks. On Trump’s campaign website, he vowed to end sanctuary cities and would withhold federal funding to cities that did not abide by federal mandates. 

According to Keimach, Alameda spent more than $2.5 million in federal expenditures in fiscal year 2014-2015. Of that, $1,343,847 million came from the Community Development Block Grant and HOME program. The city spent this money on Alameda Point Collaborative, Alameda Food Bank, affordable housing programs and other social services. Some $614,374 went to the transportation fund for restoration projects on Shore Line and Otis drives; $532,184 came from a SAFER grant used to employ six additional firefighters; and $17,006 came from a police grant used to buy additional police equipment.

Keimach said because the money was already spent the federal government can’t ask for its money back, but can stop the city from receiving such grants in the future. The federal government can take back grant money that has not been used yet. Alameda received grants for the Jean Sweeney Park, Cross Trail Alameda and Central Avenue that have not been used totaling more than $9 million. The city also has partnerships with the government involving the VA Clinic and Columbarium, NAVY cleanup and the United States Maritime Administration, allowing the administration to use Alameda’s docks. It is unknown if these partnerships would be discontinued due to the Sanctuary City status. 

There is still debate whether Trump would have the ability to defund cities. Cities typically cannot apply for federal grants if they have policies inconsistent with federal law. However, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio — New York is a Sanctuary City — cited a 1987 Supreme Court case South Dakota v. Dole that ruled federal funds can’t be withheld from programs not involving the specific jurisdiction of non-compliance. Because the non-compliance would be from local police agencies, police grants could be the funding affected the most.

The city’s resolution initially did not include the term Sanctuary City, but before voting, the Council decided to include the term, as well as including a requirement that the City Manager provide regular updates on any requests from the federal government to use city services.