Guest Opinion | Pasadena City Council Should Close the Loopholes in Its New Immigration Policy

Published : Sunday, April 23, 2017 | 6:03 AM

Image by Cam Sanders Photography

On Monday, March 27, the Pasadena City Council adopted a new policy to limit the conscription of City resources to deport Pasadena residents. The new policy is a step forward, but we believe that it is still filled with loopholes that make it weaker than protections adopted by other California cities. In particular, the current Pasadena Police Department (“PD”) policy still allows for the City’s participation in deportations, and because of that, it is inconsistent with the City-wide policy adopted March 27. If the City does not intend to participate in deportations, it should close the loopholes in the PD policy to restore the community’s confidence.

The need for a revised PD policy has become more urgent following egregious deportations of Pasadena residents in recent weeks. Federal Immigration Customs Enforcement (“ICE”) agents have raided Pasadena homes in the middle of the night. They have also shown up at the local courthouse waiting to arrest
undocumented immigrants when they showed up for hearings.

The highest-profile ICE raid is its seizure of Carlos Ortiz, who was arrested at his Pasadena home on February 9 by ICE agents who misleadingly identified themselves as “police.” The ICE agents asked for a man named “Rodrigo” and were told that nobody by that named lived there. But in ICE’s typical mission creep, they asked Mr. Ortiz for his papers and then arrested him in front of his wife and children. Mr. Ortiz is currently detained at the Adelanto Detention Facility.

For weeks, the Pasadena community rallied and marched, seeking policy change from our local elected officials. On March 27, immigrants, clergy, and community activists presented powerful testimony to the City Council about why Pasadena must endorse a strong pro-immigrant policy that is consistent with the City’s values. At the hearing, Mayor Terry Tornek said that the Council was still open to revising the new policy. Taking Mayor Tornek up on his offer, a broad coalition of groups, including Pasadenans Organizing for Progress (POP!), the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), Clergy & Laity United for Economic Justice (CLUE), and the National Day Laborer Organizing Network (NDLON), sent a letter to Mayor Tornek, the seven City Council members, City Manager Steve Mermell, and Police Chief Phillip Sanchez, asking them to improve the policy. The coalition commended the City Council’s engagement on immigration issues but expressed its opinion that the PD’s practices are inconsistent with the resolution’s stated goal that “no City employee will use City funds or resources to assist in the enforcement of federal immigration law.”

President Trump has emphasized that he will dramatically increase immigration enforcement actions – in significant part relying upon conscripting local law enforcement into deportation efforts. We believe that Pasadena should make clear that it will not be complicit in such deportation efforts which go against Pasadenans’ interests and values.

Pasadena’s Police Chief has stated that he does not intend to participate in federal immigration enforcement; we believe he should ensure that the PD policy clearly prohibits all such participation. We believe that the current PD policy – Policy 428 – allows for police resources to be used for federal immigration enforcement. While the policy states that it is in the interest of the PD to ensure that there is “confidence” in the community that local police will not subject people to heightened scrutiny based on their immigration status, it appears to us that the policy does not serve to create such confidence because of important gaps.

The PD policy does not expressly prohibit the police from inquiring into the immigration status of individuals. To minimize bias in policing and to ensure that Pasadena residents do not feel targeted by local police as a result of their immigration status, the PD policy should prohibit local police from asking individuals with whom they come into contact — including victims, witnesses, suspects and arrestees — about their immigration status.

The PD policy also does not prohibit the transferring of individuals to ICE as soon as they are eligible for release from police custody. Such in-custody transfers are a common mechanism which President Trump’s administration seeks to expand to funnel individuals — including individuals who have been acquitted of all charges or arrested for only minor offenses — directly from the criminal justice system into deportation proceedings. We believe that permitting this will contribute to a perception that the Pasadena police and ICE work closely together because this unfortunate omission in the PD policy allows for the PD to serve as an immediate gateway to ICE. We contend that, if the PD does not intend to participate in immigration enforcement through such transfers, it should clearly state that its policy is not to enforce federal immigration law through such transfers.

PD Policy 428 does not prohibit the sharing of information with ICE for immigration enforcement purposes. We believe that Pasadena’s policy should expressly prohibit the disclosure of non-publicly available information to federal immigration authorities and should prohibit the collection of information about immigration and citizenship status in order to best protect Pasadena residents.

Under PD Policy 428, Pasadena Police may participate in the investigation, detention, and arrest of individuals on federal civil immigration matters in certain circumstances. The U.S. Supreme Court has recognized this as constitutionally impermissible. Given the Supreme Court’s decision in U.S. v. Arizona, we believe that the language of Policy 428 suggests that the PD could engage in unconstitutional practices. We urge that the PD policy should be changed to expressly prohibit any enforcement of federal immigration law.

Under PD Policy 428, Pasadena Police may also participate in federal criminal immigration enforcement in broadly-defined exceptional circumstances. We believe that these provisions in Policy 428 create broad openings for cooperation with federal immigration authorities. Experience in other jurisdictions that such openings are often susceptible to abuse.

PD Policy 428 permits the Pasadena Police to assist ICE where requested for “ancillary support services” like “traffic control.” We contend that allowing exceptions such as these starts down a slippery slope that allows PD mission creep that might allow Pasadena Police to facilitate ICE checkpoints or otherwise make it easier for ICE to conduct raids in the Pasadena community. We urge that PD Policy 428 should expressly state that Pasadena police will play no role in supporting immigration enforcement efforts by ICE and should clearly prohibit any such exceptions.

The PD Policy also does not prohibit ICE from entering police facilities to interrogate residents held in police custody about suspected civil immigration violations. Pasadena is not legally obligated to and should not allow its facilities to be used for ICE interrogations. Such interrogations would be inconsistent with the fundamental principle of the City Council Resolution endorsed on March 27 — that local resources will not be used for immigration enforcement — and we urge the Police Department to modify its policy to make clear that it will not allow such interrogations or interviews.

We urge that Pasadena should recognize that local participation in federal immigration enforcement is not required by federal law and is a misuse of local public resources. The Constitution makes clear that the federal government cannot force local governments to enforce immigration law. Further, such participation with federal immigration enforcement harms individuals, families and communities. In addition to facilitating deportations of our residents — which tears apart families and communities — studies have shown that crime is lower and the economy is stronger in sanctuary jurisdictions. Moreover, early reports have shown that the xenophobic rhetoric and anti-immigrant policies from the federal government are already having an impact on immigrant access to public services, and willingness to engage with local law enforcement. In announcing its own sanctuary policy, Mayor Garcetti and Los Angeles Chief of Police Charlie Beck reported that domestic violence and sexual assault reporting has decreased markedly among the City’s Latinos (10% and 25% respectively), far outstripping the decreases from other demographic groups. The Houston Police Department has reported similar findings. The only way to prevent this phenomenon from similarly hampering enforcement of domestic violence and sexual assault prohibitions in Pasadena is the reassurance to Pasadena’s extended immigrant community that Pasadena police will not enforce immigration law – a reassurance that can come only from a PD Policy that adopts ironclad prohibitions against working with ICE.

The City Council must stand for the values of this City. This City has repeatedly affirmed that we will not allow anyone, including the President of the United States, to undermine our social fabric and destroy our communities. We need the leadership of our elected officials in helping to achieve this.


Pablo Alvarado is executive director of the National Day Laborer Organizing Network (NDLON). Marvin Gross recently retired as CEO of Union Station Homeless Services and is a board member of Pasadenans Organizing for Progress (POP!). Rev. Tera Klein is minister at Throop Unitarian Universalist Church and a member of Clergy and Laity United for Economic Justice. Kris Ockershauser is a board member of the American Civil Liberties Union of Southern California.

blog comments powered by Disqus