Written by Dominic Marziali and Peter Wang
Photo by Helena Fu
The South Pasadena Public Safety Commission convened Wednesday night to allow citizens discussion on possible changes to the city’s immigration policy. Committee members examined various revisions to the SPPD’s Immigration Policy (section 415), in addition to edits to Resolution 7491, the pro-immigrant resolution that is the result of past meetings.
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.
Since the SPPD only has a temporary holding cell, neighboring cities allow South Pasadena to book at their jails. The city of Pasadena is known to be pro-immigrant in its policies, but Alhambra police has been known to actively collaborate with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). This discrepancy between possible results for suspects due to the difference in policy puts a suspect held in the Alhambra jail at higher risk of investigation and deportation. South Pasadena residents mentioned that the policy can be remedied to ensure that neighboring cities comply with South Pasadena’s pro-immigrant stance when they are holding SPPD’s suspects.
Councilmember Diana Mahmud further justified the city’s noncompliance with ICE, stating that the city’s budget constraint and “is projected to be in the red for 2018-2020.” The city is not able to reallocate its limited resources due to the tight budget. South Pasadena has faced difficulties in maintaining its own police force and fire department, to the point where it cannot afford to hire any more police officers.
Dr. Cynthia Liu asserted that the school board must discuss changes to the district’s policy in order to protect students and their family from ICE.
“It is particularly cruel to have ICE officers snatching students and parents directly from school.”, Dr. Liu said.
She argued for policies such as “safe haven” areas in and around schools or bus stops, where ICE officers are known to pick up students, as well as educating district staff about dealing with ICE confrontations.
Dr. Liu also advocated for policy which would prevent ICE from obtaining non-public information regarding students such as documents containing student immigration status. Many citizens argued for the SPPD’s suspect privacy policies to be strengthened as well.
A proposed change to the resolution is to include concrete examples in how the city should deal with immigration status. The inclusion of concrete examples will make the policy easier to enforce and will reduce the possibility of exploitation. There is also a proposed change to Section 415.4, which includes a “national security exception” clause. The clause could be potentially exploited by ICE, as an arrest for a national security concern does not require a warrant. Leaving the clause in opens up an opportunity for ICE to override the rest of the city’s policies.
Gary Rowe, a former American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) constitutional law professor, believes that Section 415 is legally restricting due to the use of words, ‘solely’ and ‘exclusively.’ Rowe clarified that the section’s specific wording can be exploited by ICE officers to make arrests based on a person’s immigration status. He stated that the ACLU believes section 415.4 of the Immigration Policy to be unconstitutional. The ACLU is of the position that police arrests over immigration violations are illegal, as the police officer did not see the individual crossing the border.
“I think the city [of South Pasadena] was receptive, they’re taking everything under consideration,” Gary Rowe said, “They’ve done a really good job so far in responding to the concerns raised at the city council meeting in June and drafting something that’s a really good start. I tried to point out a few unintended meanings and it’s my hope they’ll pay attention to those.”