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Council Addresses Two City of Refuge Proposals

By Judith Scherr
Tuesday May 22, 2007

Poised to reaffirm its status as a city of refuge for immigrants at tonight’s (Tuesday) City Council meeting, councilmembers are likely to debate the format of the proposal—ordinance or resolution—while supporting the concept of Berkeley as a sanctuary city, a designation made first in 1971 and again in 1986. 

Based on a San Francisco law, the draft ordinance was written by the Peace and Justice Commission, with input from Le Conte Elementary School PTA president Cary Sanders, Berkeley Organizing Congregations for Action (BOCA), and the American Federation of State, County, Municipal Employees (AFSME 3299) at UC Berkeley. 

The ordinance was placed on tonight’s agenda by Councilmembers Dona Spring and Kriss Worthington.  

Written as a resolution, a similar measure has also been placed on the agenda by Mayor Tom Bates. The council could support one, both or none of the measures. 

“An ordinance is here to stay; a resolution is gone tomorrow,” Spring told the Daily Planet last week. “The ordinance has teeth; it becomes part of the laws of the city.”  

The ordinance Spring is presenting to the council tonight, however, will have some teeth missing from the proposal she presented at last week’s Agenda Committee meeting. That draft of the law included the explicit power to sue employees who violated the ordinance.  

If Spring and Worthington get council support for the ordinance, it will go to the city attorney for approval, then go back to the council for a vote on the final draft. If supported by the council, the mayor’s resolution will go into effect immediately. 

Both the Bates and the Spring/Worthington measures speak to the need for cities to take a stand in opposition to the recent Immigration and Customs Enforcement raids in which thousands of people have been arrested and deported in a program they’re calling Operation Return to Sender. 

Bates’ resolution says: “Immigrant parents who are victims of ICE raids are being separated from their young children, or equally abhorrent, children are being incarcerated along with their parents” and a Berkeley family’s deportation “is leading to an increased climate of fear and intimidation among Latino families and students.”  

The Spring/Worthington ordinance says that through the Return to Sender program the federal government has “escalated a program of fear and intimidation against the immigrant/minority communities” and states that the “extreme actions by the federal government against the immigrant communities are violations of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights as well as several other international treaties ratified by the United States.” 

Both the proposed resolution and ordinance use the same language in concluding: “No department, agency, commission, officer or employee of the city of Berkeley shall use any city funds or resources to assist in the enforcement of federal immigration law or to gather or disseminate information status of individuals in the city of Berkeley unless such assistance is required by federal or state statute, regulation or court decision.”  

In her original draft, Spring proposed that employees who violated the law would be liable for civil action up to $1,000 plus damages and attorneys fees, but after hearing from City Attorney Manuela Albuquerque, Spring backed down.  

“There are likely some labor management meet-and-confer implications of imposing such employee financial or other penalties for violations of city policies,” Albuquerque wrote the councilmember, further saying that a city such as Berkeley, with its city manager form of government, uses resolutions rather than ordinances to create policy.  

“We should not use an ordinance to regulate ourselves,” Albuquerque told the Planet last week. 

Spring did, however, retain some “teeth” in the current draft ordinance, which says that the appropriate city commission “shall review the compliance of he city departments, agencies, commissions and employees with the mandates of this ordinance in particular instances in which there is question of noncompliance….” 

Individuals from both BOCA and AFSCME said they would like the council to pass the ordinance. 

“I support the ordinance. Because of the horrible situation, I don’t want the city to collaborate with ICE,” said BOCA organizer Belen Palido, calling Bates’ resolution “kind of symbolic.” She said BOCA was going to try to meet with the mayor to ask his support for the ordinance. 

And Seth Newton, lead organizer for AFSCME at UC Berkeley said the union supports the ordinance. “As a union, we support the strongest possible measure.” 

Newton added, “We want to be sure the city respects the rights of all the members of the Berkeley community.” 

Cary Sanders said the main point is for the city to make a strong statement of solidarity with the immigrant community. 

“There’s fear in the community,” she said. 

Tonight at 6:30 p.m., before the 7 p.m. council meeting, BOCA is organizing a rally in front of the Maudelle Shirek Building, 2134 Martin Luther King, Jr. Way to speak out supporting “the civil rights of all of its residents and declaring itself an immigrant sanctuary.”