Sanctuary cities that protect undocumented immigrants: Good or bad for Filipinos in America?


PRESIDENT Donald Trump ran on the campaign promise that he would intensify the crackdown on illegal immigrants — and he is doing just that.

There are places in the country, though, that have declared themselves as “sanctuary cities” to provide a safe haven for undocumented immigrants in their jurisdiction by limiting limit how local law enforcement can cooperate with federal immigration agents. Barely five days after taking office, Trump signed an executive order aimed at blocking federal funding to “sanctuary cities.”

This issue is very close to the heart of the Filipino-American community, as we have a lot of kababayans who are living and working in the United States without all the required immigration papers. Many of the sanctuary cities are densely populated areas across the United States with numerous Filipinos living within and their jurisdiction.

SAN FRANCISCO is among the about 300 “sanctuary cities” which have barred local police from helping federal authorities kick out any immigrants who came to the U.S. illegally. To understand their policy and how they operate to provide a safe haven for undocumented immigrants, let me share with you the information provided by the city:

In 1989, San Francisco passed the “City and County of Refuge” Ordinance (also known as the Sanctuary Ordinance). The Sanctuary Ordinance generally prohibits City employees from using City funds or resources to assist Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) in the enforcement of Federal immigration law unless such assistance is required by federal or state law.

In 2013, San Francisco passed the “Due Process for All” Ordinance. This ordinance limits when City law enforcement officers may give ICE advance notice of a person’s release from local jail. It also prohibits cooperation with ICE detainer requests, sometimes referred to as “ICE holds.”

These ordinances were last amended in July 2016. Under current law, City employees may not use City resources to:

a) Assist or cooperate with any ICE investigation, detention, or arrest relating to alleged violations of the civil provisions of federal immigration law.

b) Ask about immigration status on any application for City benefits, services, or opportunities, except as required by federal or state statute, regulation, or court decision.

c) Limit City services or benefits based on immigration status, unless required by federal or state statute or regulation, public assistance criteria, or court decision.

d) Provide information about the release status or personal information of any individual, except in limited circumstances when law enforcement may respond to ICE requests for notification about when an individual will be released from custody.

e) Detain an individual on the basis of a civil immigration detainer after that individual becomes eligible for release from custody.

WHAT is the rationale behind San Francisco’s adoption of the “sanctuary ordinance”?

“The Sanctuary Ordinance promotes public trust and cooperation.  It helps keep our communities safe by making sure that all residents, regardless of immigration status, feel comfortable calling the Police and Fire Departments during emergencies and cooperating with City agencies during public safety situations.  It helps keep our communities healthy by making sure that all residents, regardless of immigration status, feel comfortable accessing City public health services and benefit programs.”

MORE cities in the United States have been urged by their residents to declare their cities as “sanctuary cities.” Since Trump became president, the apprehension, detention and deportation of undocumented immigrants — with or without criminal records —have spiked under his Administration.

Just last week, Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced that sanctuary jurisdictions will lose access to certain federal law enforcement grants in 2017 if they: 1) Prohibit their local officials from communicating with Immigration and Customs Enforcement; 2) Block ICE from interviewing jail inmates;  or 3) Fail to notify ICE of the pending release of criminal aliens in 48 hours ICE is seeking to deport.

THIS is now being challenged in court for the first time by the City of Chicago, another city with a big Filipino population. On Monday, August 7, Chicago filed a lawsuit against the Department of Justice for what many sanctuary cities contend as “illegal bids to withhold public safety grants from so-called sanctuary cities.”

Chicago has received the grant funds since 2005, and as TIME has reported, the city has spent $33 million in grants to buy nearly 1,000 police cars in that 12-year period; it got $2.3 million last year. In addition to cars, funds were also used for radios and SWAT equipment.

CHICAGO’s ARGUMENT: “The government can’t “unilaterally” set new conditions that weren’t approved by Congress “and that would federalize local jails and police stations, mandate warrantless detentions in order to investigate for federal civil infractions, sow fear in local immigrant communities, and ultimately make the people of Chicago less safe.”

TIME reported that Chicago has been adopting sanctuary city policies since the mid-80s, and like San Francisco, “the city prohibits police from providing federal Immigration and Customs officials access to people in police custody, unless they are wanted on a criminal warrant or have serious criminal convictions. Local police are also barred from allowing ICE agents to use their facilities for interviews or investigations and from responding to ICE inquiries or talking to ICE officials about a person’s custody status or release date.”

Chicago’s city authorities point out in the lawsuit that these policies help encourage the residents of the immigrant community to inform police when they are victims of crimes. “If Chicago submits to the Department’s demands, it will forfeit decades’ worth of trust and goodwill that its police force has built in the communities it serves…And as those decades of experience show, that kind of trust, once lost, is lost forever.”

Sessions responded: The Trump administration “will not simply give away grant dollars to city governments that proudly violate the rule of law and protect criminal aliens at the expense of public safety.”

“So it’s this simple: Comply with the law or forego taxpayer dollars.”

WHAT DO YOU THINK? Are “sanctuary cities” good or bad for the Filipino-American community in America, and to the United States in general?

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Gel Santos Relos is the anchor of TFC’s “Balitang America.” Views and opinions expressed by the author in this column are solely those of the author and not of Asian Journal and ABS-CBN-TFC. For comments, go to www.TheFil-AmPerspective.com, https://www.facebook.com/Gel.Santos.Relos

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One thought on “Sanctuary cities that protect undocumented immigrants: Good or bad for Filipinos in America?

  1. The Trump administration is only concerned about Making America White Again. First, they’ll come for the illegals, but eventually they’ll come for anyone with a different skin tone. My heart goes to all religious but politically-naive kabayans who were deceived because the devil (Trump) surrounded himself with wolves in sheep clothing (Sessions, Bannon, Flynn, etc).

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