Following more than two hours of public comment and compelling, sometimes painful, testimony from Pasadena residents, many of whom described “living in fear,” the Pasadena City Council unanimously passed an official resolution Monday evening which declared that “The City of Pasadena will not enforce federal immigration laws and the City Manager will ensure that all city policies are consistent with this declaration.”
The resolution added that “the City Manager will ensure that the Pasadena Police Department maintains an immigration policy that is consistent with proposed policy 428 and the provisions of this resolution.” Policy 428 reiterates that Pasadena Police do not investigate and prosecute violations of federal immigration laws.
Pasadena Police Chief Phillip Sanchez once again emphasized to the Council that his department does not and will not cooperate with federal agents in immigrant enforcement operations.
Though the resolution did not use the term “Sanctuary City,” a term with debatable legal status, Mayor Terry Tornek assured the packed City Council chamber that the resolution was a “gesture of good faith.”
“The politics of fear will not be practiced here,” said Tornek, following the vote.
“It’s important for the Council to make its voice known,” added Councilmember Victor Gordo. “The Council has taken a clear position on this issue.”
The resolution emphasized that “All residents of Pasadena must feel safe and supported when accessing the vast array of City facilities, programs and services available to them,” and mandates that “City employees shall maintain and protect sensitive information regarding the immigration status of our residents.”
“No City employee will use City funds or resources,” the resolution added, “to assist in the enforcement of federal immigration law or to gather or disseminate information regarding the immigration status in the City unless such assistance is required by federal or state statute regulation, or court decision.”
The resolution vote came on the same day that U.S. District Attorney Jeff Sessions Attorney General Jeff Sessions reiterated part of President Donald Trump’s executive order on immigration which states that federal government agencies “shall ensure that jurisdictions that willfully refuse to comply with the law” are not eligible to receive Federal grant funding.
“Moreover,” said Sessions, “the Department of Justice will require jurisdictions seeking or applying for Department grants to certify compliance with Section 1373 as a condition for receiving these awards.”
“This guidance requires state and local jurisdictions to comply and certify compliance with Section 1373 in order to be eligible for OJP grants.” Sessions continued. “It also made clear that failure to remedy violations could result in withholding of grants, termination of grants, and disbarment or ineligibility for future grants.”
The announcement had no apparent or immediate impact on the City’s decision, though it was mentioned in the discussion more than once.
Acknowledging the announcement, Mayor Tornek said, “Pasadena will not be blackmailed, but we will follow the law,” noting that Pasadena Police may still assist with transnational crimes, including money laundering and international drug trade, but not immigration enforcement.
Scores of Pasadena residents, many of whom were admittedly undocumented, and who asked the Council to declare “Sanctuary City” status, arrived at the podium to tell tales of deported husbands and children, taken away by ICE “in the middle of the night.”
“There are sad roses all over Pasadena because my son is no longer here to care for them,” said Christina Felipe, whose son was deported nine years ago, and has not returned.
Ana Ortiz, the wife of gardener Carlos Ortiz, who was recently seized by ICE officers, who came to their home, looking for another suspect, said, “ I am a living example of what is going on. Please help us. Please stop what is happening.”
Liz Mateo told the Council her own heartbreaking story of not reporting an attempted assault she ran away from as a teen and did not report out of fear that she would be deported, only to find that the assailant, years later, assaulted a relative of hers.
“I didn’t do anything,” she wept. “I didn’t know any better. I didn’t trust the police.” She told the council and Police Chief Sanchez that if the council did not pass the resolution, “You’re telling 15 year-olds that they cannot trust you.”
Following the public comments, council members Madison, Andy Wilson and John Kennedy all criticized President Trump by name.
“This is a complicated issue,” said Wilson, “but I agree with the speakers.”
“Twenty years from now,” said Gordo in arguing for the resolution’s passage, “We will ask ourselves, ‘Where was Pasadena when our City’s values were threatened?” Echoing the evening’s theme, he added, “We won’t contribute to a climate of fear.”
Councilmember Margaret McAustin thanked the speakers for testifying before the council and acknowledged that many of them were speaking for others who were afraid to come to the meeting.
“People here tonight spoke for a lot of other people,” she said.