Long Beach among latest SoCal cities to adopt sanctuary rules

FILE: The iconic Long Beach Harbor Lighthouse in Long Beach, California, on July 13, 2017.
FILE: The iconic Long Beach Harbor Lighthouse in Long Beach, California, on July 13, 2017.
Daryl Barker/KPCC

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Long Beach this week joined the list of Southern California cities approving so-called sanctuary ordinances that limit the cooperation they extend to federal agents in immigration enforcement.

City officials approved a measure Tuesday night by a vote of 6-2 following several hours of debate. 

Long Beach Mayor Robert Garcia said Wednesday the ordinance goes beyond the new state sanctuary law known as S.B. 54, also called the California Values Act. The law, which took effect Jan. 1, bars police from turning over immigrants in their custody to federal agents.
"What it does is it builds off S.B. 54 by expanding to all city departments, to ensure that we are not sharing information that is inappropriate with federal authorities, and that we are really protecting people’s information," Garcia said. 
The measure, named the Long Beach Values Act, calls for protecting the privacy of immigrant residents. No city resources can be used to create registries based on such information as immigration status or religious affiliation.
The council is also moving ahead on a proposed legal defense fund for immigrants facing deportation, similar to one the city and county of Los Angeles contributes to. The Long Beach defense fund would be similarly funded with public and private dollars.

The Long Beach decision comes as the Trump administration continues to criticize sanctuary cities and follows the federal Department of Justice's suit against California, challenging three state laws, including S.B. 54. The legislation cited in the lawsuit restricts cooperation between local police and businesses on one side and federal immigration agents on the other.

The White House issued a statement during Trump’s visit to Southern California this week, stating sanctuary cities are "endangering both communities and law enforcement."

"Sanctuary policies in California have allowed the release of numerous criminal aliens charged with serious crimes who could continue to harm communities," according to the White House statement.

Officials in cities that limit cooperation with immigration agent maintain it is not their job to enforce federal immigration laws. They further argue immigrants would fear police and be unwilling to report crimes and serve as witnesses if local law enforcement cooperates heavily with immigration agents.

"We are not an immigration or deportation force," the Long Beach mayor said. "We are focused on bread-and-butter public safety issues and making sure our community is safe." 

The Trump administration has attempted to withhold grant funds from jurisdictions that don't readily cooperate with immigration officials, prompting ongoing legal challenges. 

The federal suit against California escalated existing tensions between the Trump administration and the state, which is widely seen as the center of resistance against many of the president's policies.