No, Long Beach Did Not Become a Sanctuary City for Immigrants. Not Yet.

Sep. 22, 2017 / By and

Above, residents rally downtown to call on Long Beach to become a sanctuary city Sept. 6, 2017.

Yes, the Long Beach council passed the seemingly pro-immigrant Long Beach Values Act of 2017 early Wednesday but that does not mean Long Beach has in effect become a sanctuary city.

At least not yet.

The word sanctuary has been thrown around a lot recently and has been used to denote policies that provide certain protections for undocumented residents, usually by barring a city’s or state’s law enforcement from interacting too closely with federal immigration agents or acting on their behalf.

But the policy passed by Long Beach city leaders doesn’t do any of that. Here’s what you need to know about the Long Beach Values Act, passed around 1 a.m. Wednesday by a 7 to 1 vote, and how it shapes up to California’s SB 54 wider “sanctuary bill.”

What Long Beach Passed

  • First of all, Wednesday’s city resolution does not enact any new enforcement changes but local immigration advocates say it’s a first step to passing a more concrete policy.
  • It does facilitate a partnership between city officials, community immigration advocates, and school and university campuses to consider policies to:
    • curb further deportations
    • protect immigrant students
    • coordinate county partnerships for a legal defense fund
    • protect immigrants’ information and confidentiality
    • ensure no city resources are used to create registries based on religion, immigration status or any other protected class.
  • These recommendations will be reviewed in 60 days and put to final consideration for enactment by the city council.
  • Fifth District Councilmember Stacy Mungo was the resolution’s only opposing vote.

What Advocates Really Want

Though not included in the policy language, advocates have stated their major hope is to prevent city resources such as money, facilities, equipment, or personnel from being used to assist federal immigration enforcement. For example, Long Beach police would be limited from sharing a bulk of their database with ICE (Immigration Customs Enforcement) officials, and prevent “improper” interrogation of detainees by ICE in local jails.

Advocates are open to exceptions. They hope a final proposal would allow local law enforcement to work together with ICE in extreme efforts such as preventing human trafficking through the Human Trafficking Task Force.

Long Beach seems to be in the clear, for now, of any related threat from the Trump Administration. Under President Trump, the Justice Department has threatened to withhold federal money from sanctuary cities and states, but a federal judge recently issued a temporary nationwide order through the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals which prevents them from doing so until further determination.

California’s “Sanctuary” Bill

California’s plan, SB 54 or The California Values Act, is currently waiting on Gov. Brown’s desk for his signature and has much more actionable implications compared to the Long Beach resolution. Here’s how:

  • It would stop state and local law enforcement agencies, including school police and security departments, from giving ICE certain information, like an immigrant resident’s address.
  • It would stop these agencies from acting in any way like immigration enforcement, such as using money or staff to investigate, interrogate, detain, detect, or arrest persons for immigration purposes. For example, police would not be able to ask about your immigration status.

Watered-Down or Fair Compromise?

The governor has been accused of caving into pressure from various sheriff’s departments, California activists say, after considerable changes were made to the bill’s language. In turn, the bill now allows:

  • State and local law enforcement leeway to possibly coordinate with ICE if a person has been convicted of certain crimes, such as felony-level DUIs or drug possessions and sexual or violent assaults.
  • The Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation to work with federal agencies if a detainee voluntarily agrees to an interview, which can be declined.
    • Such detainees can only be interviewed with their attorney present
    • Detainees must be given a multilingual written consent form

Whether Long Beach immigration advocates get what they want for their communities remains to be seen, as Gov. Brown has yet to sign the statewide bill. In the meantime, immigrant communities do what they have done for years — wait for answers.

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Michael Lozano

Michael is an editor and multimedia journalist born to Mexican parents who started their own Domestic Violence counseling center in Southeast Los Angeles. His mentorship has provided youth opportunities to share their stories online on NPR, KCET, the Long Beach Post, and other national websites. His articles have been syndicated and translated into multiple languages via New America Media and ImpreMedia, the nation’s largest Spanish-language news publisher. He was a fellow with UCLA's Laboratory for Environmental Narrative Strategies, and has recently been a Votebeat Reporter for CalMatters and the Long Beach Post. Michael graduated from CSULB in 2011 with research honors in Sociology and a Journalism minor. Follow his work @chicanochico on Twitter and @thechicanochicoreport on Instagram.

Xochitl Abarca

Xochitl is a first-generation Mexican-American, a Xicana, who believes that the radical thought of a woman choosing a career over having children should not be stigmatized. She flourished from the womb of a single hardworking guerrera Mexicana who worked her hands to the bone for her daughters. For Xochitl, journalism is both a passion and powerful responsibility to inform society.