Activists’ pleas for sanctuary fall on Pulido’s deaf ears

The local media has finally responded to the call by community activists at the last Santa Ana City Council meeting for the City to declare itself a sanctuary for immigrants. Jennifer Delson of the Times wrote the article that I will be excerpting below.

Members of a Latino rights group say they want Santa Ana council members to declare their city a sanctuary for illegal immigrants, a designation that could give more protection to undocumented residents.

The discussion about making Santa Ana a sanctuary city demonstrates how Latinos are increasingly concerned about the federal government’s increasing crackdown on illegal immigrants. On June 22, 175 people were arrested in Orange County on immigration violations during a five-day campaign, the largest single enforcement for immigration fugitives in Orange County. The crackdown netted 27 criminal suspects, including a murder suspect and a convicted child molester.

“The arrests make you think that Santa Ana is more vulnerable than other communities and it may be a good idea to make it a sanctuary city where immigrants do not have to be concerned about increased enforcement activity,” said Amin David, who heads Los Amigos of Orange County, a civic group. The group discussed the proposal at its meeting last month.

A sanctuary city designation would discourage cooperation between federal immigration authorities and local police. But federal authorities say that although they often work with local police, they do not need local authorization to make immigration arrests. Therefore, the sanctuary designation would mostly be symbolic.

Other cities, including Bell Gardens, Huntington Park, San Francisco, Coachella and El Centro, have adopted the designation, said Hector Alvarado, a Maywood activist.

Santa Ana Mayor Miguel Pulido did not return calls for comment. Other council members said they supported immigrants, but none have yet said they would pursue the designation.

“It’s a very radical proposal for Orange County, but it would be humane,” Councilman Sal Tinajero said.

Councilwoman Michele Martinez said she inquired about the designation several months ago after learning that other cities had obtained it.

Police Chief Paul Walters said he did not support the concept. Illegal immigrants are referred to federal authorities only if they commit a crime, he said.

Sanctuary “is a political statement,” he said. “It’s not anything we want to support in this city. We want to go after criminals and work with federal authorities.”

Resident Debbie McEwen said Santa Ana was already a sanctuary city “to a certain degree,” because there are so many undocumented residents and little enforcement.

On June 1, ICE created a team that for the first time will solely look for fugitives in Orange County. The team is the fifth created in Southern California since 2003, ICE spokesperson Virginia Kice said.

In the last nine months, the Los Angeles area teams have made more than 1,600 arrests of possible illegal immigrants, including more than 300 with criminal records. Nationwide, fugitive arrests have gradually increased, from 1,900 in 2003 to 21,707 in the first six months of 2007, she said.

“More arrests will definitely be made,” Hayes said.

About Admin

"Admin" is just editors Vern Nelson, Greg Diamond, or Ryan Cantor sharing something that they mostly didn't write themselves, but think you should see. Before December 2010, "Admin" may have been former blog owner Art Pedroza.