City's Controversial Agreement With Customs and Immigration Enforcement Now Officially Void

Department of Homeland Security letter memo confirms that agreement to reimburse Pasadena Police for joint operations expenditures is, officially, not in effect

Published : Tuesday, March 14, 2017 | 5:48 AM

A controversial agreement between the City of Pasadena and the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s Customs and Immigration Enforcement (ICE) agency is now officially null and void.

The long-standing reimbursement arrangement between the Pasadena Police and ICE, signed by Police Chief Phillip Sanchez last November 16 in a Memorandum of Understanding renewal agreement, mandated that the Pasadena Police Department must assist federal immigration authorities with “any investigation or joint operation” within the City’s borders.

Copies of letters between the Pasadena Police Department and Joseph Macias, Special Agent in Charge of ICE in Southern California, obtained by Pasadena Now show that federal officials now acknowledge what Macias refers to as the City’s “recision” of that agreement.

Pasadena may be the first city in the nation to not renew this type of agreement with federal officials. The reimbursement agreement, which commits cities to collaborating with ICE for unspecified “joint operations,” have routinely been in effect in many U.S. cities since just after the Sept 11, 2001 terrorist attacks in New York City.

After Pasadena’s agreement was made public by Pasadena Now in February, many activists, civic and government leaders reacted with dismay fearing that the Police Department had contractually agreed to collaborate with immigration enforcement  something both City officials and Sanchez have repeatedly vowed not to do.

The agreement had never been mentioned at City Council meetings by police or city officials and its existence was, apparently, largely unknown prior to its publication by Pasadena Now.

Reacting to discovery of the agreement, Pasadena City Councilmember Victor Gordo said he was “deeply disappointed”

“With the immigration-related campaign promises made by President Trump, many in our community expressed their concern and anxiety at what that could mean for their family, friends, and loved ones,” Gordo said in a statement the day after the agreement document was published. “Our Council and community should have been made aware of this agreement when Council raised this critical community discussion last year in November and December.”

City Manager Steve Mermell then announced that he had determined the agreement was actually never in effect because he had not executed it.

Mermell told a meeting of the Council Public Safety Committee on February 15 that “no City contract is valid unless executed by an officer of the municipal corporation — in other words, me. I have not executed this MOU with ICE and furthermore, I am not going to be executing this MOU with ICE at the current time.”

But according to Virginia Kice, the Western Regional Communications Director/Spokesperson for U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), the agreement remained in effect, regardless of the lack of Mermell’s signature.

Kice added, “The city can terminate it at any time,” describing the agreement as “commonplace and routine.”

Now, based on information received through the Freedom of Information act, Pasadena Now has learned that all parties involved — Pasadena Police, The City of Pasadena, and the Department of Homeland Security — have gone on record that the agreement is not in effect.

In a letter signed by both Chief Sanchez and City Manager Mermell, to Special Agent Joseph Macias, of the Long Beach office of the Department of Homeland Security, Sanchez wrote, “All contracts of the City shall be executed by a duly authorized officer of the municipal corporation. The Police Chief is not a duly authorized officer of the City for such purposes; consequently, his signature on the subject agreement is not sufficient to bind the city.”

The letter continued, “The Pasadena City Council is expected to consider in the near future what, if any, policy position it may take in regard to the issue of immigration and related matters. Until such time as the City Council completes its deliberations, no further action will be taken in regard to the (agreement).”

Macias responded, “As the investigative arm of the Department of Homeland Security, Homeland Security Investigations, is committed to investigate, disrupt and dismantle terrorist, transitional and criminal organizations that threaten or seek to exploit the laws of the United States. If in the future, the Pasadena Police Department, would like to re-engage to sign another MOU for Reimbursement of Joint Operations Expenses from the Treasury Asset Forfeiture Fund, we would be happy to do so.”

The letters effectively close — for the time being — the ongoing City-wide discussion as to the possible role of the Pasadena Police Department in immigration enforcement, pending further discussions by the City Council.

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