Is Anaheim already a “Sanctuary City?”




I’m gonna say yes it is, has been for a decade, nothing anyone can do about it.  Today we’ll examine different theories of what “Sanctuary City” actually means, and answer our question from the point of view of “if it walks like a duck” etc.  But first enjoy this.  No, seriously, you will like it.  Turn up the sound.

In the above video, FOX’s Major Garrett defines Sanctuary Cities as “places where local police will not arrest and/or detain anyone simply for being in the country illegally;  and if they come upon someone here illegally, they’re not going to go out of their way to let federal authorities know so that they could be deported.”  

Well, that does describe Anaheim’s policies for the past decade – as well as (I find out now) many other OC cities that have NOT bothered making a big gesture like Santa Ana and DECLARING themselves Sanctuary!

Wikipedia defines a Sanctuary City as:

“…a municipality that has adopted a policy of protecting unauthorized immigrants by not prosecuting them for violating federal immigration laws and by ensuring that all residents have access to city services, regardless of immigration status. Such a policy can be set out expressly in a law (de jure) or observed only in practice (de facto). The term applies generally to cities that do not use municipal funds or resources to enforce national immigration laws. The cities usually forbid their police or municipal employees to inquire about a person’s immigration status or share such information with immigration enforcement.”

Again, that describes the policies of the City of Kindness since around 2007  (de facto at least.)  I called up Deputy Chief Julian Harvey to make sure I’m not crazy, and he seemed pleased that I was working on a rare POSITIVE story about his department.  Good call too, calling Julian – it turns out that he was the one actually assigned to formulate the APD’s new immigration policy a decade ago.  (It seems, like with Life cereal’s Mikey, he is always assigned that sort of task.  “Give it to Julian.  He’ll write it!  He’ll write anything!”)

And sure enough, for over a decade, Anaheim police investigating an incident have been instructed not to inquire about anybody’s immigration status.  And not knowing or caring about that, they also do not report it to ICE.  

(On the other hand, when someone arrested gets transferred from Anaheim to county jail, they are automatically fingerprinted, and their fingerprints automatically are sent to the FBI, who automatically shares them with ICE;  then, as this informative Washington Post piece tells us, if ICE decides this is a person they want to deport, they send a request to the jail to hold them an extra day, a request the jail may or may not agree to honor, partly depending on if the Feds wanna pay for the extra time.  Thus we see that a county’s policy is more important than a city’s policy, and [UPDATE] if OC D.A. Tony Rackauckas was telling the truth to the Anaheim Republican Assembly on the evening I was writing this story, our county as well as all the other OC cities he knows of follow the same de-facto sanctuary policies Anaheim does.)  

Harvey was careful to clarify, “If ICE at some time demanded help in Anaheim, we would have to assist, but only in a very limited role – we do not enforce federal immigration laws, we’re not a 287G.”  Like many intelligent police leaders he emphasizes how important it is, in a city of immigrants like Anaheim, for the police to have the trust of those communities, so people feel comfortable coming forward as victims or witnesses.

“Thanks, that’s pretty much the impression I had.  I know you had an ICE agent in the jail a while back though, when did the new policy start?”

“A little over a decade ago, I think 2006.” [Update: Gabriel in the comments below contends 2007.]

Chief Welter, Amin David.

“Under Chief John Welter then.”  Suddenly it strikes me – “I bet Los Amigos had something to do with it.”  Yes, it turns out, Los Amigos, and particularly the late Amin David, had 100% to do with making Anaheim a de facto Sanctuary City.

With a ravenous immigration agent in Anaheim’s jail, a policy that conservative law-and-order politicians Tom Tait and Loretta Sanchez both supported at the time, countless undocumented immigrants would get scooped up for everything down to jaywalking and vanish;  their torn-apart families would come to Amin’s Los Amigos meetings to complain and ask for help.  

At first Chief Welter refused to believe this was happening right under his nose:  “They’re not there long enough for that to happen, they’re either released or sent to county.”  But finally he investigated and determined that Amin was right – over a hundred undocumented Anaheim residents had been deported right from Anaheim’s jail in the space of a year.  So the ICE agent was sent packing, and new policies written and implemented.

I like knowing this because it makes a little more sense of Los Amigos’ closeness with, and credulity toward, APD leadership, in the face of unnecessary killings, gang injunctions, youth criminalization, and harassment of the homeless.  At least it puts that credulity and patience more in context – they’d had a history of achieving some real reform with them.

Let’s take a step back for a moment…

It’s always good to be a little skeptical of what a politician or police leader tells you, and check it against what you’ve seen and heard happen.  We know that one of the two young men arrested on Anna Drive on the night of Yesenia’s 2014 birthday party got deported – and he wasn’t even the one who allegedly had drugs on him, he was just “in the wrong place at the wrong time” – in a gang injunction zone while being (justly or unjustly) included in a “gang database.”  

And this brings up two things.  For one, you all saw New York Mayor DiBlasio in the video above holding up a list of violent and dangerous crimes that, even in his biggest of sanctuary cities, will get you deported if you’re undocumented.  Despite all the FOX/Trump propaganda, there is nobody who wants to keep undocumented murderers and rapists in this country.  Two, apparently, violating a gang injunction by visiting your old neighborhood is considered another “dangerous” crime that can get you deported.  And THIS is what’s unfair and unconstitutional:  gang injunctions that cover such a broad swath of territory and people.

Also last fall, a young friend of ours, an impeccable DREAMer, was getting really worried over his upcoming (regular) appointment with ICE, what with all the Trump deportation talk in the air.  I managed to hook him up with a Mayor and a Congresswoman who put in a good word for him and allayed his fears, and he sailed through the appointment.  What an irony:  the same two politicians mentioned above who used to back keeping an ICE agent in Anaheim’s jail.

Please let me know in the comments section if you’re aware of any instances of Anaheim NOT behaving as a Sanctuary City in the past decade.

OC’s Demagogues try to use the issue to their advantage.

“Republicans… conservatives…” – I hate to call ’em either of those out of consideration to decent Republicans and real conservatives – let’s just call ’em “those (99%) white people who get most of their ‘news’ from FOX and President Trump” …  well, as you saw in the video above, they have worked themselves up into a lather, as they so often do, over the very idea of “sanctuary.”  Between Trump’s poisonous rants about murders, rapists and drug dealers pouring across the border, and FOX’s constant harping on the EXTREMELY RARE and tragic fluke of a killing like that of Kate Steinle by an undocumented man in San Francisco, “sanctuary” has become the stuff of their nightmares.  

And to demagogues, in Anaheim as in elsewhere, that means it can be USED!  What’ll these white folks say when they figure out they’ve been living in a de facto Sanctuary City for ten years, with a constantly lowering crime rate?  They probably never will realize that, but imagine the cognitive dissonance if they did!

Dr. José Moreno [NOT a demagogue but probably the most progressive councilman Anaheim has yet elected] mentioned a couple of times during his 2016 campaign that, sure, he’d like to see Anaheim be a sanctuary city.  Well, if a frog had wings, and also he’s perfectly aware that he wouldn’t get one vote from his Republican colleagues, and also that there’s no point making much fuss over it since we already are one.  Instead he proposed a still-loosely-defined Mayor’s task force to create a “Welcoming Anaheim,” encouraging immigrants from all nations and cultures to feel at home here.

Well, the kleptocracy’s Tweedledee and Tweedledum, both hating José for defeating their dear corporate Dem Jordan Brandman, now purport to attack him on this from both “left” and “right.”  The Liberal OC’s Dan Chmielewski, now perched absurdly inside the Democratic Party Central Committee, recently counted himself all shades of clever for introducing a resolution demanding José waste his time fighting for that designation.  But immigration and “sanctuary” status is something the faux-liberal Dan has never before shown any interest in, while the sanctuary supporters who backed José (OCCORD, UniteHERE), are not pressuring him on that issue.  And also, EVERYTHING ELSE IN THIS ARTICLE.  So, Dan’s anti-José resolution got defanged by the Resolutions Committee, into a general County-wide exhortation to exactly the kind of immigration policies Anaheim already has.

At the same time, from a different angle, comes the Chamber’s paid “conservative” shill Matthew Cunningham, knowing how terrified many white Republican voters are of sanctuary and also yearning to defeat José in 2018.  But instead of encouraging the councilman to fall on the sanctuary sword, Matt tries to convince his readers that the “Welcoming Anaheim” task force is really just a back-door, “sub rosa” way to SNEAK IN Sanctuary City status.  But not only does a study of the “Welcoming America” website reveal nearly no material on immigration status and co-operation with the feds, Matt has also found it impossible to answer my point that THIS TASK FORCE CAN’T “SNEAK” IN ANY POLICY WITHOUT A VOTE OF THE COUNCIL.  (And also, EVERYTHING ELSE IN THIS ARTICLE.)

Finally, we have Councilwoman Lucille Kring, José’s bitterest foe on the dais, who recently expressed a desire to agendize the resolution “Anaheim is NOT a Sanctuary City,” except the item failed to come up at the last meeting.  Had she pulled it, and why?  I decided to call her and ask.  First of all she made it clear that her only motivation is to force José to go on record FOR sanctuary cuz she thinks that’ll hurt him!  Second, when she talks about illegal immigration, she predictably begins with the Kate Steinle tragedy in San Francisco, but then quickly makes it clear that she believes just being here on an expired visa is as serious a crime as murder.

I kind of hope she does agendize that vote; I will be there telling everyone that Anaheim IS already a Sanctuary City, and telling Lucille that she’ll have as much success in changing police policy as she will in changing the time of the sunrise the next morning.  

She’s NOT 100% sure she’ll go through with this;  I had heard a rumor that she’d “gotten some grief” about it;  and she did start to tell me she “got a call about it last week,” and then trailed off, lest she accidentally tell me who could have the authority over her to warn her off such foolishness.  Hmmm…

SanTana: What’s in a “WORD?”

So, I’m finishing this up now, but I want to ask some of the Resilience OC activists a few questions – number one, what does Santa Ana do as an official “Sanctuary City” that Anaheim does not?  (See first comment below for good answers.)

Can you be a Sanctuary City without advertising yourself as one?  What does it mean to make that declaration?  Besides being a “gesture” that makes immigrants and liberals happy?

(And yes I do say “immigrants” not “undocumented” or “illegal” immigrants, because every immigrant has family or friends they care about who are undocumented.)

Is declaring yourself a sanctuary city a potential red toreador cape waved at a psychotic President?

Why was it so easy for the Santa Ana Council’s “Police State Three” (Pulido, Solorio, Villegas) to support the ordinance unanimously, even while they plotted to keep ICE in the jail? (AND BY THE WAY DON’T FORGET TO RECALL PULIDO THIS YEAR!)

And does this declaration run the risk of giving immigrants a false sense of security, since there’s really nothing a city’s police force can do to stop an army of ICE agents?

Discuss. There may be good answers to all of this.  And until then I’m thinking that Anaheim is a Sanctuary City!

Update 10/2018:  Another good piece on the topic

About Vern Nelson

Greatest pianist/composer in Orange County, and official political troubadour of Anaheim and most other OC towns. Regularly makes solo performances, sometimes with his savage-jazz band The Vern Nelson Problem. Reach at, or 714-235-VERN.