ALAMEDA CITY COUNCIL | With some sense of urgency, the Alameda City Council unanimously voted Tuesday night to move forward an early proposal to become a sanctuary city. Included in the council instruction is for city staff to prepare a report on the matter, hopefully, before President-elect Donald Trump is inaugurated on Jan. 20. But whether the timeframe can be met is unknown.
“Our council needs to weigh-in and say, ‘We’re putting our stake in the ground. We’re going to stand to protect our most vulnerable people,’” said Councilmember Jim Oddie, the author of the sanctuary city referral. However, it is unclear whether a staff report will be ready before Trump’s inauguration.
City Manager Jill Keimach expressed uncertainty whether the short turnaround time—roughly seven days—will hinder the compilation of a suitable report. A discussion on sanctuary cities may not occur until early February, said Keimach.
Oddie said he could never live with himself if some of Trump’s heated rhetoric against undocumented immigrants and Muslims were actually implement while he stood idle. Around 80 percent of Alamedans voted against Trump. “There’s no mandate for breaking up families, terrorizing children and deporting valued members of our community,” said Oddie.
The referral offered Tuesday includes instructions for the Alameda Police Department and other city departments to refuse to honor or expend its resources for any request by the Trump administration that include mass arrests, internment or the registration of individuals based on their religious beliefs. It also asks for an analysis of possible financial impacts to the city for defying such federal requests.
The city’s police department already has an existing policy protecting undocumented immigrants against coordinating with the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement. Councilmember Frank Matarrese said he worries the Constitution could be violated by the incoming administration and urged for not only a city council resolution but possibly putting the police department’s policies into city law.
“It’s practical and already an operating policy and there’s no convincing the police that it has to be done because it’s their policy,” said Matarrese. He added, codifying the police department’s policy into law will remain past Alameda Police Chief Paul Rolleri’s time in command.
Matarrese, and other councilmembers urged the city administration to be transparent about future requests from the federal government, for instance, hypothetically, a demand for data from the city’s license plate readers, video from its police body cameras “or any other insidious request that’s going to be used for things that are unconstitutional.”
Several public speakers voiced strong opposition to the proposal Tuesday night. Alameda resident Brian Kennedy displayed a large photograph of Kate Steinle, who was murdered last year in San Francisco by an undocumented immigrant with a lengthy criminal record. Steinle’s death was a major early campaign talking point for Trump, who strongly opposes sanctuary cities. “Because of this policy, which you are trying to bring here, is costing American lives and she’s not the only one,” said Kennedy.
And not every councilmember viewed the sanctuary city issue with as much urgency. Mayor Trish Spencer voted to move along the sanctuary city referral, but preferred for the issue to include the city’s Social Service Human Relations Board, which held a meeting on the topic last month.
Doing so, however, would likely slow down the process for enacting legislation, said Oddie. “We need to take the man at his word,” Oddie said of Trump and suggestions he would immediately begin deporting undocumented immigrants shortly after his inauguration. “I don’t think we can afford to wait.”