Kevin L. Hoover
Mad River Union
ARCATA – The Arcata City Council last week heeded the pleas of a succession of speakers and adopted an ordinance declaring the town a Sanctuary City.
On April 5, the council adopted Resolution No. 167-45, a Resolution of the City Council of the City of Arcata Safeguarding the Civil Rights, Safety and Dignity of all Arcata Residents, with plans to adopt an ordinance that includes the Sanctuary City designation.
The council firmed up wording in the draft ordinance to limit collection of information which might be used by the federal government in immigration enforcement. “We can’t be doing the federal government’s work,” said Mayor Susan Ornelas, as the council and staff wordsmithed the declaration.
Civil rights activist Renee Saucedo said the ordinance doesn’t cover situations like one which took place in Fortuna, when the Humboldt County Drug Task Force asked the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) to assist with translation. At the council’s request, she helped clarify language to prevent such cooperation, to the effect that the local police shall not collaborate or share information with federal immigration authorities unless required by state or federal law.
“That way we cover situations outside of detainment,” Saucedo said. “That is the heart of the sanctuary law, so we have to have it. The rest is kind of fluff, actually.”
But City Attorney Nancy Diamond wasn’t prepared to offer an analysis of the language “on the fly,” so it was tentatively added and may be subject to further analysis during the ordinance’s adoption hearing on June 5. If adopted then, the ordinance will take legal effect 30 days later.
The ordinance passed 4–1, with Councilmember Michael Winkler dissenting. City Manager Karen Diemer said the ordinance formalizes longstanding city practices.
“This is actually pulling together the past practices of the Arcata Police Department and City of Arcata,” Diemer said. She said the ordinance is a good way of publicizing these well-established Arcata traditions safeguarding civil liberties.
Winkler clarified the reasons for his opposition. “I am adamantly opposed to the fascist Trump regime and all its immigration policies and many other policies,” he said. “But I think that the word ‘Sanctuary City’ puts a weapon in Trump’s hands which I don’t want to give the Trump administration. It has nothing to do with the body of it, which I fully support. It’s specific language that I don’t want to give them the power to punish us and the people of Arcata.”
That’s a reference to the Trump Administration’s Jan. 25 executive order threatening to withhold federal funds from Sanctuary Cities. Arcata depends heavily on federal funding, with millions of dollars in grants and other funds expected for housing, transit, law enforcement, recreation and other projects. While the loss of federal funds would severely curtail multiple city programs, it’s not clear yet the extent to which the administration will enforce the executive order.