Santa Ana city leaders took a step on Tuesday toward calling on Congress and the president to stop deporting undocumented immigrants who haven’t committed major crimes.

On a 7-0 vote, City Council members directed City Attorney Sonia Carvalho to prepare a resolution calling for an extension of the federal Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program to “all immigrant families not engaged in criminal activity.”

The resolution would also call for suspending “further deportations of individuals with no serious criminal history.”

Without discussion, council members quickly directed its preparation. A vote on the actual resolution would come at a future council meeting.

Anaheim city leaders rejected a similar move last week, though theirs would have called on President Obama to halt deportations on his own, which the president has said he can’t legally do.

As cities consider calling on Washington to take action, many immigration activists say local officials’ first priority should instead be ending their own participation in deportations.

Some local cities, as well as the county Probation Department, refer detainees to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, known more commonly as ICE.

A recent UC Irvine study found that Orange County accounts for 43 percent of the state’s total referrals of juveniles to ICE.

It’s unclear whether Santa Ana police also make referrals.

Two top city officials, both Carvalho and City Manager David Cavazos, said on Tuesday that they don’t know whether city police officers refer people to ICE.

Santa Ana does rent space in its city jail to ICE to house immigration detainees. The city loses more than $1 million per year on that contract, according to the current budget.

Additionally, the city pays $9 million each year toward its debt for the jail and police headquarters.  

In all, a city consultant has estimated that the jail costs the city between $2 million and $7 million more than it brings in each year.

The City Council has said it’s exploring its options for the jail contract.

Please contact Nick Gerda directly at  and follow him on Twitter: @nicholasgerda.

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