Santa Rosa police swear to uphold sanctuary city

Chris Ludlow , Co-News Editor

The Santa Rosa City Council declared Santa Rosa a sanctuary city for undocumented workers of all backgrounds; a defiant stance in light of the President Donald Trump administration’s nationwide threat to cut federal funding to any city that does not cooperate with immigration and customs agents. The issue remains on how local law enforcement will adhere to the city’s new stance.

As part of Trump’s new immigration executive order that was released on Feb 21, the Department of Homeland Security is tasked with hiring 10,000 immigration and customs agents. The New York Times reports that Trump’s directives will revive the 287(g) program which recruits police officers and sheriffs to help with the deportation process.

However, no such program will be present locally. The Press Democrat reports that the Sonoma County Sheriff’s Office does not plan to contact federal immigration authorities’ to cooperate with this effort.

But for many of the disenfranchised immigrants living in other parts of the nation, the new executive order has made the constant threat and possibility of deportation much more likely. For the 29,000 undocumented workers currently living in the newly declared sanctuary city of Santa Rosa, local officials and law enforcement are seeking to relieve the uneasy tensions set forth by Trump’s order.

During the Jan 31 city council meeting that declared Santa Rosa as an ‘indivisible city’, city manager Sean McGlynn spoke about the progress Santa Rosa has made as a result of the hard work of immigrants both legal or otherwise, and how the city and its officers are prepared to serve the community.

“I want to assure our entire community that Santa Rosa police officers do not engage in law enforcement action based on a person’s immigration status alone and we have no plans to change this longstanding policy,” McGlynn said. “Nothing about the president’s executive order will change how our police officers protect and serve all of our residents.”

Only two short weeks later on Feb 13, Santa Rosa Junior College officials, instructors and students held a meeting that declared the campus a sanctuary for immigrants. Chief Lorenzo Duenas of the Santa Rosa District Police was present for the meeting. He said his department will follow the directives set by a resolution released by the SRJC Board of Trustees which states:

“…that Santa Rosa Junior College District Police shall not detain, question, or arrest any individual solely on the basis of suspected or known undocumented immigration status; nor shall any district employee ask about a student’s immigration status except when required by law.”

In unity with the city, SRJC has also followed the sanctuary model, becoming a safe haven campus for undocumented students earning an education. As a result of the sanctuary status, the college has declared that student information will be kept private from federal agencies and will not be granted unless a violent offense has been committed.

“Sonoma County law enforcement personnel will assist the federal government if there’s a violent felony involved, and that’s the only time we would consider that,” said Duenas, reassuring many citizens at the Feb 13 SRJC town hall meeting. “And of course it would go under high scrutiny and I would be the person to say yay or nay, and you can rest assured that I’ll weigh those options if it’s viable and falls within this policy.”

However, while undocumented workers and illegal immigrants will have sanctuary within the community as a result of the city’s decision, they may remain under threat of being stripped from their families and homes by federal immigration and customs officers that are not obligated to follow the city’s status. Regardless of whether or not local police involve themselves with immigration services, arrests for misdemeanors or minor offenses that place undocumented people in jail could result in their deportation.

So the issue now becomes not that officers can arrest solely on the grounds of documentation status, but that immigrants who find themselves in jail could be transferred and deported by federal agents. In an attempt to bypass this, state lawmakers, led by Democratic state senator and President pro Tempore Kevin de Leon, have presented a bill that would deter local-federal interaction in law enforcement by restricting the notifications that immigration and customs agents receive when undocumented residents are released from local jails.

“I cannot wait and allow federal ICE agents to use state and local dollars, data, personnel, and facilities to help deport the very families who contribute so much to our economy and community,” de Leon said in a statement released to the press.

All people within the United States are entitled to the rights set forth by the Constitution, regardless of their background and citizenship, and as such are entitled to equal protection of law. Only a warrant issued by a court and signed by a judge allows officers the right to enter a residents home, according to the American Civil Liberties Union. Furthermore, a warrant issued by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security or Immigration and Customs Enforcement and signed by a DHS or ICE employee is not valid for entry into an immigrant’s household.

For the thousands of undocumented people living in Santa Rosa, the recently declared sanctuary status of the city seeks to ease the burden and threat posed by the Trump administrations exclusionary executive order; whereby each and every student of SRJC will be able to continue to live and learn in a safe and accepting environment that promotes community and understanding in these uncertain times.