Zoe Lofgren talks immigration policy, sanctuary cities
The Santa Clara
April 27, 2017
Amidst heated debate and uncertainty about U.S. immigration policies, the campus community is not shying away from discussing the contentious issue.
Congresswoman Zoe Lofgren, who represents California’s 19th district in the House of Representatives, was among the guests who spoke on campus last week about sanctuary jurisdiction.
On April 21, approximately 60 individuals gathered in the Harrington Learning Commons’ St. Clare room to learn about the political, legal and social implications of the ever-changing status of immigration. Hosted by the Santa Clara Law Review, the symposium included talks by lawyers, scholars and elected officials who shared their expertise on sanctuary legislative action, constitutional issues regarding immigration policy and their ramifications.
Attorney James Brosnahan spoke about the consequences of immigration policy, particularly the separation of families.
“Do you think there’s a single family in this state that hasn’t sat around the table and (said) ‘What are we going to do if grandma goes? What are we going to do? Where’s she going to go?’” he said.
According to the Pew Research Center, as of 2014 an estimated 11.1 million undocumented immigrants resided in the U.S. and approximately 2.3 million of them live in California. There are also an undisclosed number of undocumented students, including Deferred Action for Childhood Arrival (DACA) recipients, that attend Santa Clara.
In January, the current federal administration issued an executive order that threatened funding of sanctuary cities— municipalities that opt not to comply with certain federal immigration policies, such as the deportation of undocumented immigrants. On April 25, a San Francisco federal judge issued a ruling halting the federal government from withholding funds from such localities.
Lofgren, a former chair on the subcommittee on Immigration and Border Security, said she believes that to ensure community trust, there must be a separation between local law enforcement and Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).
“You can’t go into a community if they’re afraid to open their door, that believes you’re their enemy, that thinks you’re going to deport grandma and expect them to be a witness … and participate in community policing,” Lofgren said.
Brosnahan, who has experience litigating cases in defense of undocumented immigrants, holds an unfavorable view of ICE agents, saying they lack empathy for the immigrants they detain.
“They encounter the most vulnerable people in the state of California,” Brosnahan said. “And they get used to handling them like jailers handle the most vulnerable prisoners.”
Lofgren expressed concern about the treatment of undocumented people, especially within detention facilities, saying she fears the number of deaths in custody will increase.
“(The Department of Homeland Security) is planning to reduce detention standards in immigration detention. A few years ago, we had 36 desks in immigration custody with outrageous cases. People who had cancer but received no care. People who had Parkinson’s and their medicine was taken away from them and they refused to (return it) after repeated pleas from families,” Lofgren said. “If we eliminate those standards, we’re going to see a lot more deaths in custody than we have had.”
Recently elected California Assemblyman Ash Kalra talked about a bill he recently introduced to protect undocumented students attending both public and private schools and universities that receive federal funding.
The bill would prohibit the release of students’ biographical information that reveals immigration status, stipulate for increased verification of the legitimacy of ICE court orders, mandate a designated office or individual to address undocumented students’ concerns and require schools to refer undocumented students to legal assistance.
Kalra also proposed a bill to distinguish ICE from law enforcement at the state level, which would include removal of the word “police” from ICE agents’ uniforms. But according to Lofgren, passing federal legislation to protect undocumented immigrants is a difficult endeavor—especially as a member of the minority political party in the House of Representatives. She also raised concerns about the rhetoric used to describe undocumented individuals.
Lofgren said that California does not have the ability to shield all undocumented immigrants from deportation. She advocates for “community trust” policies, sometimes referred to as community policing, rather than sanctuary city policies.
Nikki Marquez, an attorney at the Immigrant Legal Resource Center (ILRC), works to straighten out the relationship between ICE agents and local law enforcement.
She said that voluntary measures to promote such alliances include sharing of criminal databases, renting of jail spaces, use of detainers and detention of undocumented immigrants upon release from jail.
To encourage local law enforcement to not assist in federal immigration efforts, Marquez educates them about the Department of Homeland Security’s vast resources.
According to Marquez, local police should use their funds for community policing rather than immigration enforcement.
Arizona State University Professor Allan Colbern, a scholar in sanctuary laws, compared local ordinances to protect undocumented immigrants to legislation created to safeguard runaway slaves and refugees in the 1980s.
“A lot of the roots of the policies during the Antebellum period (and) during the 1980s, really began with an underground movement to protect refugees or protect runaway slaves,” Colbern said. “But eventually, this spreads to state and localities and law enforcement. (There are) layers of protection on top of noncooperation that makes ‘sanctuary’ something meaningful for undocumented immigrants.”
For Kalra, the protection of undocumented persons transcends politics. He said that the separation of families raises moral concerns and invites others to defend undocumented individuals.
He said he takes pride in California’s status as a sanctuary state.
“As much as is a policy issue, this is a moral issue. It’s important for us to recognize the moral imperative for us to stay united to protect our residents against whatever may come our way from the federal government,” Kalra said. “It’s not right to separate families … we should be proud to say our state is a sanctuary, that our communities are sanctuaries.”
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