Santa Monica is drafting a new ordinance that would prohibit companies from gathering information on any client’s religion, immigration status or sexual orientation in the City or sharing the information with other entities.
The ordinance is the brainchild of City Councilmembers Kevin McKeown and Sue Himmelrich. It applies to employers, landlords, housing agencies and other organizations.
“The thrust of this motion tonight…is to prohibit the accumulation of information on people’s religious adherence that could be used against them and to let the word go forth in our community that we will do everything in our power to protect the immigrants among us,” McKeown said at the Feb. 14 City Council meeting when members approved a motion to draft the ordinance.
While the ordinance aims to reiterate the City’s support of immigrants, it goes short of proclaiming sanctuary city status. In the wake of Trump’s election, some California cities have reiterated their status or voiced support for two Senate Bills that would make California a sanctuary state. Santa Monica has done neither.
“‘Sanctuary City’ is defined differently by different municipalities and has no clear-cut legal meaning,” Mayor Ted Winterer said in a statement to the Daily Press. “Our actions at last Tuesday’s meeting demonstrate that Santa Monica is an inclusive community that embraces diversity.”
Last month, President Donald Trump signed an executive order that would revoke federal funding from jurisdictions that do not comply with federal immigration laws. It will be up to the Secretary of Homeland Security, John Kelly, to determine which jurisdictions are in violation of the law.
This week, Kelly released a pair of enforcement memos detailing how many of the estimated 11 million immigrants living in the United States illegally will be targeted for deportation. In addition to hiring 15,000 border and immigration agents, the federal government will restart a program that uses fingerprints collected in local jails to quickly identify immigrants in the U.S. illegally. The Secure Communities program would also allow local police and jailers to act as immigration agents.
That would require a departure from current policy for Santa Monica. For all intents and purposes, Santa Monica Police Department policy is the same as in many sanctuary cities: officers will not assist ICE in detaining immigrants suspected of being in the country without permission. Currently, the jail will release inmates who are otherwise free to go, even if ICE has sent them a request to hold the person until immigration officials can pick them up. It is not clear whether this policy will impact Santa Monica’s federal funding.
City leaders have been pressured by local activists to go a step forward and formerly declare Santa Monica as a sanctuary city. In an email to the Daily Press, McKeown likened adopting the phrase to waving a fed flag.
“I’ve met with school and college board members who agree our policy has to be shielding students and families, not seeking headlines,” McKeown said.
Nevertheless, next week City leaders plan to put forward a resolution “rejecting hate and discrimination and clarifying the City’s role in enforcing federal immigration law,” according to Mayor Winterer. On Wednesday, Winterer, Chief Jacqueline Seabrooks and an attorney with Legal Aid, Dalia Setareh, met with Santa Monica immigrants to offer advice to those facing the threat of deportation.
“Even someone who is undocumented has rights,” Setareh said. “I think a lot of this anxiety we’re having right now is because of all these unknowns and whatever little information I have to give is somewhat reassuring.”
It is unclear how the tangle of executive orders, state laws and local ordinances will impact immigrants once they make their way through statehouses and courthouses. For now, leaders in Santa Monica hope to make it known immigrants – documented or not – are welcome in their city.