Hundreds of Demonstrators March, Ask Pasadena for “Sanctuary City” Declaration

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by EDDIE RIVERA, Community Editor

6:06 am | February 28, 2017


Following a march from the corner of North Lake Avenue and Villa Street, nearly three hundred protesters gathered on the steps of the Pasadena City Hall late Monday afternoon before packing the Council Chamber to ask that the Council declare Pasadena a “Sanctuary City,” and to demand that the city’s police department refuse to work with members of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) in carrying out immigration arrests.

“This is one of the most shameful moments in American history,” said local labor leader Pablo Alvarado to the gathered protesters outside City Hall. “We are going to ask our Council leaders, ‘What side of history will you be on?’”

The demonstrators later packed the Council chambers and outside hallway, to voice their testimonies to the full Council. Forty-five speakers signed up to address the Council, ranging from legal experts and labor representatives, to faith leaders and parents with crying children.

Though the discussion was not agendized and therefore could not be formally acted on or discussed in depth by the Council, Councilmember Victor Gordo led off the comment section of the meeting telling his own story of coming to the US as a young undocumented child: “We lived in a two-car garage,” he said, “and in the corner of that garage was a Folgers’ coffee can. In the can was a written list of friends and family and their phone numbers, some cash, and some documents. If my parents ever didn’t come home some night, I was to take that can and walk to my neighbors house for help.”

“Pasadena is the greatest city in the world. This is the center of the Universe here, and you need not live in fear,” he added.

Gordo also pointed that most of the people in the room were immigrants, noting that Councilmember Gene Masuda was descended from Japanese-Americans who faced internment camps in California.

Masuda agreed, saying, “That was not internment camp. That was prison.”

Gordo continued, “It’s un-American for people to be afraid. That rhetoric that is ringing in all of our ears these days has got to stop. When did it become American for our children to sleep afraid? We have to stand up as Americans. Pasadena should lead the way.”

Echoing the ongoing theme of the evening, Pasadena activist Ed Washatka said, “Today we call on the city to absolutely refrain from cooperating with ICE.We call on the City not to allow the use of its resources, including police officers, in enforcing immigration laws. It’s time Pasadena stands up to the president, and stands up to ICE.”

District 7 resident Julianna Serrano, Senior Associate for Peace & Justice and Office for Creative Connections at All Saints Church, told the Council, in quoting Rabbi Abraham Heschel, “Patience is a quality of holiness, but it may be sloth in the soul when associated with the lack of righteous indignation.”

“We are here to tell you the time to act is now,” Serrano continued. “We can’t wait to see what happens. We cannot be slothful and face the risk of being on the wrong side of history. We are called to feel righteous indignation. Members of our community are living in fear and isolation as a result of the hateful and ignorant rhetoric coming from the White House, and while Federal immigration reform is a huge issue, …it is an issue that has global implications and can be addressed by Pasadena.”
Added Serrano, “We can affirm that Pasadena will not enforce Federal immigration laws, that we will not have our local law enforcement agencies work with ICE on immigration enforcement and deportation, and that this is a matter of public policy. not just a practice or procedure with no transparency or accountability.”

The City of Pasadena, while it has no official “sanctuary city” status, has long supported the rights of the undocumented. Pasadena police have a “noncooperation” policy with federal immigration authorities when it comes to purely immigration enforcement operations and do not check anyone’s immigration status during contacts with the public.

In a 2013 statement, the City officially adopted the following resolution:

“The City of Pasadena strongly believes that immigrants strengthen the community economically and culturally, and welcomes their contributions to society. With regard to federal legislation aimed at reforming federal immigration laws, the City would urge Congress and the President to reaffirm that addressing unlawful immigration in a compassionate manner is the primary responsibility of the federal government, and that sufficient resources must be committed on the federal level for this purpose.

“In a resolution adopted by the City Council in October 2013, the City of Pasadena hereby supports a humane and comprehensive immigration reform proposal with the following principles: provides an attainable and affordable pathway to full citizenship for the nearly 11 million undocumented immigrants in the United States; family unity as a cornerstone of our immigration system; provides due process and labor protections; allows access to key essential services such as health care; and local governments should not be mandated to enforce federal immigration laws, particularly when resources necessary to enforce local laws are already stretched.”

Not all Pasadenans agree, however. Lynn Gabriel, president of the Pasadena Republican Club responded to the day’s demonstrations by saying in a statement, “President Trump promised to make our nation safer and that is what his administration is attempting to do by enforcing laws on the books. One thing that is the absolute letter of the law is that the Federal Government has power over immigration policies for the nation.”

“The Trump Administration is looking for cooperation from local law enforcement,” Gabriel said. “They are not asking local officials to go out search for and arrest illegals. They are just asking the police that, if they arrest an illegal, to please inform ICE and (they) will pick them up.”

Mayor Terry Tornek said, following the public comments, that the City Council will agendize the matter for a full Council discussion, “soon, perhaps as early as the next Council meeting.”