Los Angeles went a step further than the rest of the country Tuesday in shielding illegal immigrants from immigration officials: It passed a directive forbidding firefighters and airport police from cooperating with federal immigration agents.
The directive was yet another attempt by the city to rebuff the Trump administration’s immigration crackdown. The Los Angeles Police Department already prohibits police from even asking a suspect’s legal status – even with probable cause.
It follows a wave of similar measures across the country by cities and states that are vowing to not only resist the president’s tough immigration measures – but outright defy it.
“In Los Angeles, we don’t separate people from their families because it’s inhumane,” Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti said Tuesday. “In Los Angeles, we don’t demonize our hardworking neighbors just because they speak another language or come from another country. That’s un-American.”
There are about 300 jurisdictions that don’t cooperate with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) to turn over illegal immigrants.
President Trump has threatened to withhold federal funds from these so-called sanctuary cities. The administration has refused to tell Fox News if, when or how they plan to do so.
But while states like New York and California are pushing to defy the president’s immigration policies, others are embracing them.
Several states are attempting to leverage the power of the purse to force more liberal cities to cooperate with ICE. Lawmakers in Florida, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Pennsylvania, Virginia, Wisconsin and Texas introduced bills to penalize sanctuary cities. On Tuesday, Mississippi became the first state to approve such a bill. The governor has vowed to sign it.
By contrast, lawmakers in California are close to passing legislation that would prohibit police or jails from even talking to ICE, a move critics say is a clear violation of federal law.
That proposal is opposed by several sheriffs who oversee jails, including LA Sheriff Jim McDonnell.
“We look to be able to strike that balance between public safety and trust,” said McDonnell, who oversees the nation’s largest jail.
“We do a better job because we work together than we otherwise would; counter-terrorism is a great example.”
McDonnell is one of the few politicians opposing the bill because it would prohibit jail officials from even identifying violent criminal aliens for deportation.
“We can allow ICE access to those individuals. That’s a system that by and large works very well for us at this point and one of the main reasons I look at Senate Bill 54 as something that is unnecessary.”
McDonnell also told the Los Angeles Times that the proposal before state lawmakers would hurt immigrants – not help them. He told the Times that if immigration officials cannot go to the jails to pick up illegal immigrants then they will fan out through the streets to find them.
“They are going to have no choice but to go into the communities and arrest not only the individual they are seeking but also people who are with that person, or other people in the area who are undocumented,” McDonnell told the Times. “That is something none of us want.”