Photo by Helena Fu
The South Pasadena City Council introduced an ordinance Wednesday, October 4 deeming South Pasadena as a “safe and welcoming city for immigrants.” The ordinance unanimously passed as a council effort to protect the rights and privacy of all residents.
City councilmembers and public commenters previously discussed the ordinance at length as a reaction to President Trump’s actions concerning immigrants, reinforcing their resolve to become a “sanctuary city.” The ordinance codifies the city’s policy of not inquiring about or sharing sensitive information, especially information regarding a person’s immigration status. It serves to guide the conduct of city employees and police to ensure the careful handling of information.
The city adopted a “resolution of diversity” last December declaring “the public policy of the city to be inclusive and to respect the inherent worth of every person.” The resolution was mostly symbolic as it was not legally binding, while last week’s ordinance is more concrete, specifying that a resident’s rights and privacy will only be disregarded if the sharing of information is mandated by federal law enforcement.
In a move to further protect residents, the police policy section 415 was updated regarding the protection of residents from intervention by the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and the federal government. The revision, much like the ordinance, also included the protection of sensitive information.
In a previous meeting, Police Chief Miller affirmed that “[SPPD] officers don’t have any interest in someone’s immigration status,” and that the SPPD will never make arrests or start investigations based on or related to a suspect’s immigration status. The police department hopes that victims and witnesses will not be discouraged from being involved in an investigation due to their immigration status.
Commenters readdressed issues discussed at previous meetings, specifically regarding a South Pasadena case: a child whose father is being deported after 31 years in the United States. While the ordinance does take steps to giving a higher level of protection to residents, it does not provide anti-ICE safe zones around schools, which many residents have advocated for.
The state of California also signed a “sanctuary state” bill into law on Thursday, which prevents ICE and other federal agencies from using state resources to detain people; this law will take effect next January. Much like South Pasadena’s ordinance, the new state law will protect immigrants and victims or witnesses, and includes special exceptions for certain crimes.
South Pasadena’s newest policy bears similarity to the laws of neighboring cities, including Pasadena. However, Alhambra’s police have been known to actively cooperate with ICE, and undocumented suspects detained at the Alhambra jail subsequently face a higher risk of deportation than in Pasadena or South Pasadena, a major point of concern preceding the sanctuary state decision.
The city stated that the ordinance will serve to “stop irrational fears” regarding a lack of attempt to protect residents from illegal ICE privacy violations.
“It doesn’t solve the full problem,” South Pasadena resident David Beadle said, “but it’s our way of dealing with it.”