Santa Ana Set to Declare ‘Sanctuary City’ Status

The Santa Ana City Council members who have called for challenging Trump's immigration policies, and will be in office through 2018. From left: Michele Martinez, Vicente Sarmiento, Sal Tinajero, and David Benavides.

Para leer este artículo en español, haga clic aquí.

Soon after Donald Trump’s victory in the presidential election, a majority of council members in the heavily-immigrant city of Santa Ana made it clear that their city  will refuse to cooperate with deportations under Trump.

And now they’re slated to make it official.

A resolution up for approval on Tuesday calls immigration “the cornerstone” of America’s development and declares Santa Ana “a sanctuary for all its residents, regardless of their immigration status.”

The resolution goes on to say that the city “will not expend any funds, nor use its resources, including staff to administer federal immigration law which is the exclusive authority of the federal government.”

Specifically, if the proposal is approved, the city and its police department will not:

  • Enforce federal immigration law or take action against a person “solely because of his or her immigration status.”
  • Collect or disclose “sensitive information about residents,” such as immigration status, “except to the the extent necessary to provide the service in question or as required by law.”
  • Provide “federal authorities with non-publicly available information about any individual for immigration purposes,” unless the city is “contractually obligated” to do so.

The resolution also calls for all city employees to be trained about the new policy, and the city will look into creating “a commission or task force” of community members to monitor the city’s compliance.

Trump made cracking down on illegal immigration one of his central campaign promises, vowing to create a “deportation force” to remove all of the estimated 11 million unauthorized immigrants in the United States. Trump has softened his rhetoric since the election, but has made it clear that deportations will increase under his administration.

Santa Ana, which is home to more than 340,000 residents, is believed to have among the highest proportions of unauthorized immigrants of any American city its size or larger. More than 40 percent of the city’s adults are not citizens, many of them unauthorized.

If the resolution passes Tuesday, Santa Ana would be the first official sanctuary city in Orange County, and would join major cities like Los Angeles, New York, Chicago, and San Francisco in refusing to cooperate with deportations despite Trump’s vow to “cancel all federal funding to Sanctuary Cities.”

By taking such a stance, Santa Ana could also be risking over $120 million in federal funding it’s slated to receive in the coming years, officials say.

The funding includes Section 8 public housing subsidies, Community Development Block Grants for affordable housing and anti-poverty programs, Department of Justice funding for police services, and money for transportation and park improvements.

The proposed resolution calls for city staff to monitor efforts to cut federal funding “as a result of the City’s policies to protect and defend its immigrant community,” and for staff “to take all actions necessary to protect such funding.”

It’s unclear what those actions would entail.

While the resolution calls for ending the use of city facilities for immigration enforcement, it does allow its jail to continue to be rented to the feds as an immigration detention facility.

It allows the city to be involved with federal immigration enforcement if “contractually obligated,” which would include the jail contract with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).

About 150 immigration detainees are in the jail on any given day, and the current policy is to slowly phase out the ICE contract between now and 2020.

But in their first meeting after Trump’s election on Nov. 8, council members signaled a desire to end the contract more quickly. They’re slated to vote Tuesday on what to do with the contract. Options presented by staff include reducing immigration detainees to 128 at any given time, seeking proposals for a study into re-using the jail for other purposes, and any other actions sought by a majority of the council.

If passed by the council, the sanctuary city resolution would be signed by Mayor Miguel Pulido, who has strongly opposed illegal immigration in the past.

When he was first running for City Council in the 1980s, he described “the problem of illegal aliens” as an “epidemic,” and continued to oppose illegal immigration in the mid-1990s. His current position is unclear.

Tuesday’s council meeting starts at 5:45 p.m. at Santa Ana City Hall.

Nick Gerda covers county government and Santa Ana for Voice of OC. You can contact him at ngerda@voiceofoc.org.