Santa Ana Finalizes ‘Sanctuary City’ Law Just Before Trump Takes Office

With Donald Trump set to be sworn in as president on Friday, Santa Ana City Council gave final approval this week to an ordinance declaring the heavily-immigrant community a “sanctuary city.”

The new law, approved on a 6-0 vote with Councilman Vicente Sarmiento absent, prohibits city police, staff and resources from being used to assist with deportations.

There are exceptions, such as when cooperation is required under a “valid and enforceable federal or state law,” or under a contract, which includes the city’s agreement with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) to house federal immigration detainees at the city jail. (Click here to read the ordinance.)

Dozens of pro-immigration activists, who worked closely with the city on developing the ordinance, again turned out Tuesday evening, largely to thank the council for their actions. But they also reiterated two requests that haven’t been implemented: the formation of a community task force to ensure the ordinance is followed, and a faster cancellation of the ICE detention contract, which is currently scheduled to be phased out until 2020.

“We cannot truly be a sanctuary city if we continue to have an ICE contract on the books,” said Ivan Enriquez, a resident and immigration advocate. He was among about 20 people who spoke on the issue, all of whom supported sanctuary protections.

santa-ana-immigrant-speakerIn one particularly emotional moment, an immigrant mother of three U.S. citizen children broke down crying, as she described living in deep pain from the deportation of her husband. Her young son walked over from the audience to comfort her and wipe away her tears.

Last month, the council ordered the number of ICE detainees at the jail to be reduced to a new maximum of 128 people, and approved a process to study how the city could re-use the jail for a different purpose. That analysis isn’t expected to start until mid-April, when the city plans to hire a consulting firm to do the work.

A central challenge to canceling the ICE contract is the millions of dollars in revenue it brings to the city, much of which funds jail staff that are represented by the city’s police officers’ union. Cancelation is estimated to cost the city $2 million per year, unless another revenue source is found.

One idea, proposed by Councilman Sal Tinajero, is to facilitate the cancelation by moving jail employees over to vacant city positions in other departments. But that hasn’t gained much traction on the council.

Meanwhile, Councilwoman Michele Martinez, a key vote on such issues, reiterated her support for ending the city’s contracts to house other agencies’ detainees in the jail.

“We need to get out of the jail business,” she said.

The number of ICE detainees in the jail did drop to the new 128 cap on Dec. 14 and 15, but then shot up to 171 the next day and remained around that level through at least the end of the year.

Since early December, a key request from immigration advocates has been for the city to set up a task force of community members to ensure the sanctuary policy is followed.

The council agreed to do that, and required it under the sanctuary policy that was first approved on Dec. 6 and the ordinance finalized Tuesday. But the committee apparently hasn’t been set up, and activists again urged council members to set up the committee soon.

The council didn’t indicate Tuesday when that would take place.

Looming in the background of the sanctuary city debate is Trump’s promise to cut off federal funds to sanctuary cities, which some of his supporters say could happen as soon as he takes office Friday. Others argue that cities could block the effort under the U.S. Constitution’s 10th Amendment, which they say protects local governments from being required to enforce federal immigration law.

Gerardo Mouet, Santa Ana’s acting city manager, said Tuesday that he’s not concerned about losing federal funding, given the many bright legal minds in California.

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

  • Matthew Lawyer

    why does everyone keep saying we have a immigration problem in santa ana the only immigrants i ever saw in this city came from mexico

  • Stephen Masek

    Mandatory E-verify with high penalties for violations will get rid of the invaders.

  • jskdn

    It’s the obstruction of federal immigration law enforcement that’s at issue with sanctuary jurisdictions. A key practice that needs to stop is rejecting detainers from federal immigration authorities for those in jail, or deciding locally which will be respected or not. 8 C.F.R. §287.7(d): “such agency shall maintain custody of the alien for a period not to exceed 48 hours.” I believe it’s also against federal law to conceal information from federal authorities, which might even trigger a harboring charge against those so engaged. Maybe the budget of Santa Ana could be helped by renting the cells to hold Democrat politicians.

    Federal supremacy over immigration law has been well-established in cases brought against places that wanted to do enforcement that could be argued as logically consistent with federal immigration laws. The entity sanctuary cities are trying to protect illegal immigrants from is the federal government in the exercise of its authority. Local enforcement agencies don’t have to become partners with the federal government in enforcing immigration, which would result in the kind of efficiencies that exist in most other law enforcement. They can do that under the 287g program that trains them for the task. But neither can they obstruct federal prerogatives in the area.

  • verifiedsane

    So what is a “sanctuary city” simplified. It is a local municipality telling the federal government that they will not cooperate in the enforcement of federal law. We are a nations of laws (including immigration laws), or we are not…we are either a constitutional republic, or a collection of little Fascist territories… it’s just that simple…only politicians could make something so simple, a maze of ridiculous political double speak, and take subversive actions to further their own political capital/careers based in complete and total lunacy.

  • Gregory D. Lee

    This is an “in your face” jester for Trump. The city may regret its actions when federal funding is cut and half the population is deported.

  • Greg Diamond

    LFOT, read what the practical definition of “sanctuary city” is; Nick was nice enough to include it in the story for you. It means not offering more cooperation than is legally mandated. It doesn’t require hiding people, having City Police stand off against federal troops, or whatever else you imagine it does. It’s more than just symbolic, but more like “passive resistance” than active resistance — but it’s resistance that only the local government (with its control over the local police) rather than individual citizens can provide.

    Mouet is presumably referring to the “anti-commandeering” line of Supreme Court jurisprudence. Trump’s minions might be able to come up with some retaliation that wouldn’t violate it, but (as with the sanctuary city ordinance itself) it wouldn’t be nearly as powerful as its proponents would imagine.

    As for a “sanctuary city for tax evaders,” that would simply mean not cooperating with federal investigations of them or attempts to apprehend them. I’m not sure what cities ARE asked to do at present to investigate or apprehend them, but I’m pretty sure that at least some cities will already avoid doing whatever they can to cooperate — at least for some select portion of their citizenry.

    If you object to the symbolism of this ordinance, then we’ll just have to disagree. If you object to its *substance*, though, then you should reconsider. It’s not that big of a deal; it’s more akin to William F. Buckley’s description of small-government conservativism: “to stand athwart history, yelling ‘Stop!'” That is what Santa Ana is doing; it’s just that “history” is currently moving in reverse.

    • LFOldTimer

      I don’t have time to provide a full comment tonight. But let me say that the ordinance is posted on-line at the city website and I suggest that you read it in full. Afterwards let me know if you stand by your comment.

      • Greg Diamond

        It’s OK, I can wait.

        When you have time, why don’t you post a link so that everyone can enjoy it — and then indicate which portions of the ordinance you think go beyond what I say it does? I don’t doubt that there could be some, but they have a pretty sharp City Attorney who can tell them what is and is not actually enforceable (and, I presume, probably already has.)

  • LFOldTimer

    Like declaring SA a sanctuary city is going to protect it from Trump. lol.

    There’s already legal precedent for the Feds to withhold fed money from states or municipalities who defy Federal law, particularly when grants or fed funds come w/ a compliance clause.

    What short memories some people have. Remember SB 1070 in Arizona? Hello?

    US Constitution: Article 1, Section 8 “To establish a uniform Rule of Naturalization….” Hello?

    It’s one thing for ordinary residents to champion sanctuary cities. It’s quite another for elected officials sworn under oath to uphold the laws and defend the Constitution to defy the laws. Unamerican and disgraceful. When the Santa Ana council enacts a new ordinance it expects all those within the boundaries of their city to obey and honor it …… OR ELSE. Yet those same lawmakers apparently believe that they can choose to defy Federal law by refusing cooperation. What a great example for the people. “Don’t do as we do, do as we say!

    Why not have a sanctuary city for tax evaders? Half the country would move there. How long would that be allowed to continue before Washington DC dropped the hammer?

    Look. We’re either a civilized nation that has secured borders and enforces immigration laws (like all nations do) or we’re uncivilized and promote inequality under the law. Pick one.

    The SA council complains that it’s inundated with poor people, lacks sufficient housing and has rising crime. Then it openly gives safe harbor to more poor people who violate our laws thereby increasing the density of their population resulting in fewer available living spaces and driving up the cost of housing making it less affordable!!! What brilliant logic!

    If you don’t like the law use the standard process to change the law. In the meantime stop promoting lawlessness. We don’t want to live in a 3rd world banana republic!