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Long Beach Council Votes To Support Sac'to Bills (SB 31 & SB 54, Latter With Amendments) That Would Support Statewide Immigration "Sanctuary" Actions; Two Councilmembers Vanish On Vote; Multiple Public Speakers Urge Council To Separately Declare Long Beach a "Sanctuary City" Which Council Declines To Do

No organized testimony in opposition


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(February 8, 2017, 5:30 a.m.) -- Seven of Long Beach's nine City Councilmembers voted to put L.A. County's second largest city on record as supporting two advancing Sacramento bills (SB 31 and SB 54) that would effectively create certain statewide immigration sanctuary policies. SB 54 would forbid state and local law enforcement agencies, school police and security departments from investigating, interrogating, detaining, detecting, reporting or arresting persons for immigration enforcement purposes. SB 31 would forbid the state and localities from investigating, enforcing, or assisting in investigating or enforcing any federal program requiring registration of individuals on the basis of race, gender, sexual orientation, religion, or national or ethnic origin.

Both bills effectively defy a threat by President Donald Trump to cut off federal funds to California and localities practicing immigration "sanctuary" type policies.

Two other LB Councilmembers, who had been visible earlier in the Council meeting (including Stacy Mungo, the Council's only registered Republican) vanished on the vote (with Mungo returning after the agenda item for the remainder of the Council meeting.)

Councilmembers supporting the Sac'to bills declined to do what most public speakers (36 in support, 2 opposed) urged it to do: separately declare Long Beach a "sanctuary city" (committing to take certain actions in defiance of federal immigration authorities regardless of the outcome of the state legislation); instead, LB Councilmembers stayed basically within policy parameters drawn by Sac'to's Dem legislative leadership.

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LB Councilwoman Lena Gonzalez (the agenda item's primary agendizer, joined by co-agendizing Councilmembers Jeannine Pearce, Roberto Uranga and Vice Mayor Rex Richardson) offered a floor amendment that paralleled amendments to SB 54 now being considered in Sac'to by the bill's author, state Senate President Pro Tem Kevin deLeon (D, Los Angeles). Councilwoman Gonzalez's amendment supported SB 54 if amended to ensure local law enforcement retains discretion to continue partnering with federal officials to combat serious and violent crimes and assist task force operations on human trafficking and drug trafficking.

No members of the public spoke in support of President Trump or his policies; no organized opposition was visible or audible...and President Trump took a verbal pounding from Long Beach Councilmembers.

Councilwoman Gonzales said the Trump administration has "incited negative and divisive debate." Councilman Roberto Uranga called the President "a thug, a blackmailers and...potentially an extortionist" in threatening to withhold federal funds from CA and cities like Long Beach. Councilman Al Austin called the President's Executive Order "impulsive, reckless [and] mean spirited."

In response to one member of the public who opposed the Council action and said it important to respect the law and to wait in line to immigrate lawfully, Vice Mayor Rex Richardson called comments of that type "incredibly insensitive and privileged."

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Among speakers testifying in support were individuals who said they are undocumented. Other speakers who said they were born here said they now fear for their parents with the thought that they might be split from their families.

Among those speaking in support were Tarek Mohamed (chair of LB's Islamic Center); representatives from LB's Centro Cha and a Millikan High student (first name Astrid) who said she has a 4.0 GPA, aspires to attend to UCLA and supports making LB a sanctuary city. (Mayor Garcia called her testimony "really amazing" for a high school junior.)

The leader of LB's Grey Panthers invoked the 1939 voyage of the St Louis, a ship filled with Jews fleeing Nazi Germany whose passengers were turned away from the U.S. [during the Roosevelt administration.] A speaker from LB's Cambodian community said she had come to Long Beach after fleeing the killing fields of the Khmner Rouge (communists) and urged LB to declare itself a sanctuary city, Retired LAPD Deputy Chief Steve Downing (a LB resident) said he had helped draft LAPD "Special Order 40" (on dealing with undocumented immigrants) and urged LBPD to adopt its own version of the order.

In 2013, California's legislature enacted the TRUST Act (AB 4, took effect Jan. 1, 2014) which prohibits law enforcement officials from detaining an individual on the basis of a United States Immigration and Customs Enforcement hold after that individual becomes eligible for release from custody, unless certain conditions are met, including among other things that the individual has been convicted of specified crimes. On Jan. 25, 2017, the Long Beach Police Department released the following statement:

[LBPD statement] Enforcing immigration at the local level undermines the trust and cooperation with immigrant communities, which are essential elements of community oriented policing. Long Beach follows the California TRUST Act, and our current practice is not to hold individuals on immigration violations alone. The Long Beach Police Department supports measures to either continue incarceration or to deport violent and serious offenders who pose a threat to our community. We evaluate our policies and procedures as any new legislation is enacted, but it would be premature to speculate on any changes, at this time.

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Following public testimony, Councilwoman Suzie Price, who is an Orange County Deputy District Attorney, asked Councilwoman Gonzalez to accept a "friendly amendment" to have the City Council's state legislation committee and public safety committee (the latter chaired by Price) continue to follow SB 54 as it advances through the Sac'to legislative process (when it could be amended) prior to the Council taking a final voted position. Councilwoman Gonzalez declined to do so, and (along with a number of other Councilmembers) argued that she viewed it as preferable to have a "seat at the table" and influence the bill as it progresses.

Co-agendizer Councilwoman Pearce acknowledged the audience's call to make LB a sanctuary city, but said many of those policies are already included in the proposed legislation (while acknowledging that the bills could be amended before enactment.) Councilwoman Pearce also established in a colloquy with LBPD management that LB police follows the TRUST Act and based on certain criteria requires ICE to obtain a judicial warrant before releasing a prisoner to the federal agency on immigration grounds. .

Councilwoman Price and Councilman Daryl Supernaw noted that the item as agendized didn't specify taking action to make Long Beach a "sanctuary city" that night, and City Attorney Charles Parkin agreed that this precluded the Council from taking such action that night. [We heard no audible support from Councilmembers or the Mayor on Feb. 7 for a separate "sanctuary city" resolution for Long Beach that night or in the future.]

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Long Beach Mayor Robert Garcia, who as a child lawfully immigrated from Peru and is a naturalized U.S. citizen, said that he'd spoken earlier in the day with SB 54 author Sen. deLeon about the types of amendments now being considered for the bill, noted that about 40 cities including CA's largest cities already essentially follow or have codified, including some policies of the City of Long Beach, and said that he favors having a "statewide standard" and supports both bills and "supported them from the day they were presented." [On Monday Feb. 6, LBREPORT.com asked Mayor Garcia's office, via an email to his Chief of Staff, for the Mayor's position on the agenda item supporting the Sac'to legislation...and we received no response. Freelance writer Barry Saks tells LBREPORT.com that he separately asked the Mayor and other Councilmembers for their positions prior to the Council meeting and received no responses.]

Mayor Garcia said LB was a city not just of immigrants but also of refugees (citing the city's large Cambodian population.) He noted that Long Beach also has a large population of Latino-Americans and Latinos who'd like the privilege of becoming American citizens, and said he was proud that Senators deLeon and Lara had brought their bills forward.

It's not immediately clear if the issue will return to the Council for a second vote on a formal resolution of support. The item as agendized (and the motion we heard) didn't explicitly send the item to the City Attorney's office to be put in formal resolution form. The Council motion was simply to "to support" SB 31 and SB 54.

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