Opinion:  To Be or Not to Be a Sanctuary City?

By Richard Eber

 

One of the reasons that I favor what transpires with local government in Concord compared with some other nearby communities, the State, and in Washington D.C. is that “declines to state” is the dominant political party in the city where “families come first”.

A recent example of this is the Concord City Council resisting pressure from the County Democratic Central Committee and immigrants rights organizations to make them a Sanctuary City.  Such a designation would allow Concord to co-operate in any way with law enforcement agencies in turning over undocumented felons for deportation.

In resisting the temptation to hitch a ride on the Sanctuary City bandwagon, the City Council did not indicate that they are unsympathetic to the plight of undocumented residents who are concentrated mostly in the Monument area and North Concord areas.  Quite to the contrary, it has been policy of the police department for many years to not vet citizenship when dealing with those who have issues with the police.

In other words, when a traffic stop is made, police officers don’t ask for proof of citizenship or concern themselves about the legal status of anyone they contact. To reinforce this “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy, law enforcement under the able leadership of Chief of Police Guy Swanger, has been quietly holding community meetings in affected areas to tell residents that there is nothing to be feared by law abiding folks from approaching them about any issue of public safety.

The City of Concord does not feel that becoming a Sanctuary City is necessary because in doing so would not change this policy towards undocumented residents.  Currently, it is not until those accused of committing crimes in Concord are sent to the County in Martinez and convicted of felonies that ICE is informed of their presence. At that point the City has nothing to do with what transpires with this process.

Of course, many progressives on the left feel differently than those communities that prefer not to become Sanctuary City’s.  Senate Leader Pro Tem Kevin de Leon (D-Los Angeles) has introduced SB-54. This bill would declare California a Sanctuary State where it would be illegal for any law enforcement or public official from co-operating with Federal immigration agencies (ICE) on any level.

This would include some 12,000 undocumented felons who when released from detention and prison would be returned to local communities rather than be held for ICE to deport.  Instead of mentioning this while defending SB-43, De Leon has preferred to discuss how the bill will protect innocent women and children from being split from their nuclear families by the Federal authorities.

 

Another matter omitted from his projections is the immense cost of public assistance and law enforcement expenses that will fall on local communities when undocumented felons are released if SB-54 is passed.

But wait there’s more!  Should the state government of California refuse to co-operate with ICE, they will lose some $155 million in funds sent primarily to counties to deal with undocumented criminals that are being held for deportation.

In addition, the $61,000 per prisoner subsidy to house undocumented criminals given by the Feds to the state would also evaporate.  Also at risk, the inevitable collateral damage losses the State would realize from not receiving other law enforcement grants should it try and push Sanctuary City policies on the Trump Administration.   Such concerns about the ramifications of defying ICE runs downhill to those who play this game. This fact of life has not been lost by Concord and nearby neighbor Pittsburg in deciding not to enact Sanctuary City laws in their communities.  These cities depend on Federal matching funds on everything from pot holes to sewer repair to bike path construction.

“Why poke the dragon”, as one Concord City councilmember quipped off the record, and antagonize Uncle Sam who provides important revenue streams for essential local services.  While no one is sure if the Federal Government will punish Sanctuary Cities by denying them funds in unrelated areas, “Why take a chance on this by taking part in a symbolic act that does not affect current policy?”

These considerations weigh heavily on local City Council’s when they decide what to do on this emotional issue that divides communities. What is the best way they can protect their valued law abiding undocumented residents?

In the end taking into account the big picture is what should prevail.

 

Richard Eber is a local writer who makes regular contributions to the Diablo Gazette and whose political commentaries can be found weekly on line in the California Political Review & News. His views and opinions expressed in this article do not reflect the opinion of the Diablo Gazette.  Eber can be reached

at RichEber@amerasa.net