Pomona Gives Final Approval to Local Ordinance Ensuring “Sanctuary State” Legislation is Implemented

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Members of the audience attending the Dec. 18, 2017 Pomona City Council meeting break out in applause after the City Council approved an ordinance ensure the implementation of SB 54, the so called “sanctuary state” legislation, in the city. Photo by Monica Rodriguez/ Inland Valley Daily Bulletin.POMONA >> Hundreds passed on a chance to address the Pomona City Council Monday night and simply asked that their names be read into the record as being in support of an ordinance guaranteeing the city will comply with state legislation some have called the “sanctuary state” law.

Pomona City Clerk Eva Buice read the names — more than 300 of them —  into the record before some 40 speakers, about 30 calling for approval of the ordinance and another 10 opposing it, spoke before the city council.

After listening to all comments, city council members gave unanimous final approval to the ordinance. The council had given it preliminary approval Dec. 11.

“People are living in fear. They are scared,” said Councilwoman Ginna Escobar, referring to residents of the city who are in the country without the necessary immigration documents.

Some people have tried to obtain the required paperwork, Escobar said, but it is one that is difficult to complete.

Addressing the fears of Pomona residents who are in the country illegally or who have family and friends without the necessary documents is of such concern to Pomonans that the issue has brought people together.

“More than ever, we are united with love and compassion,” she said.

Mayor Tim Sandoval said people don’t leave their countries because they have a desire to move out. They leave because they are facing situations that make it difficult for them to stay.

“They seek a better future,” Sandoval said.

Monday’s meeting was contentious even before it started. At times, opponents to the ordinance shouted “USA, USA, USA” while supporters sat in their seats and sang “De Colores,” a song that became an informal anthem of the United Farm Workers in the 1960s.

The singing prompted at least one of the outnumbered opponents to call out, “In English! This is America! This isn’t Mexico!” The audience members maintained their composure and continued to sing.

Later, an ordinance opponent and an audience member engaged in a shouting match.

This fall, immigrant-rights groups called on the city council to adopt an ordinance that would place city policies in line with the requirements set by Senate Bill 54, formally known as the California Values Act.

Gov. Jerry Brown signed SB 54 into law in October with the legislation set to go into effect  Jan. 1. Generally, the state law will prohibit California and local law enforcement from using their resources to carry out federal immigration-enforcement activities.This would include investigating, interrogating, detaining or arresting people.

“SB 54 correctly identifies that the enforcement of federal civil immigration law falls exclusively within the jurisdiction of the federal government,” according to a city staff report. “As such, no city department has any inherent authority or duty to investigate or assist in (the) enforcement of such federal law. Entangling state and local agencies with federal immigration enforcement programs diverts already limited resources and blurs the lines of accountability between local, state and federal governments.”

Pomona’s ordinance ensures the “city policy remains in conformity with state law on the issue, in particular, the requirement now under SB 54 that cities do not engage in immigration enforcement purposes except under specific circumstances” such as cases in which a judicial warrant was issued, the staff report reads.

Under the ordinance, the city “affirms” that requirements set by the state involving confidentiality of personal information, as is already done by the city, will be extended to include immigration enforcement actions, according to the staff report.

The city will also be prohibited from entering into agreements unless they are in compliance with SB 54, the staff report reads.

SB 54 will require police departments to submit a yearly report to the California Department of Justice with details of their involvement in any joint law enforcement task force. Under the city’s ordinance, Pomona’s city manager must provide the same information to the City Council when it’s submitted to the state, the staff report reads.

Pomona’s ordinance ensures that “neither the city nor any official, employee, agent or contractor of the city will be able to amend this stated city policy to make such policies out of compliance with this ordinance or SB 54,” according to the staff report.

In addition, Pomona’s city manager will be responsible for developing and implementing training materials for city personnel as they pertain to the requirements of SB 54, the city staff report reads. The city manager also will present a report to the council at least once a year on the status of training and compliance with the state legislation.

Before the council voted on the matter, one of the speakers referred to the undocumented as “criminals, rapists, they are law breakers,” to the displeasure of most of the audience.

Speaker Maria Valencia later said, “I’m a very hard worker. I’m not a criminal” and, she added, she’s a native of Mexico.

Robin Hvidston, of the Claremont-based We The People Rising, was among the 10 speakers who opposed the ordinance.

“We should have our local government support our federal laws,” she said. “The council should be helping the homeless, homeless Americans.”

Approving the ordinance will only send a message that will attract those participating in human trafficking and drug trafficking activities, she said.

Mayor Tim Sandoval said the ordinance wouldn’t have been established without the involvement of several groups including the ICE Out of Pomona Coalition and the Latino/Latina Roundtable of the San Gabriel and Pomona Valleys.

Council members listened to the public, including parents, children and local ministers. Sandoval said.

Adopting the ordinance sends a clear message, he said.

“This is your city, your community,” Sandoval said. “We don’t want anyone to feel unwelcome here.”

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