BART directors propose Sanctuary in Transit policy

Francesca Ledesma/File

BART directors Lateefah Simon and Nick Josefowitz proposed the investigation and preparation of a Sanctuary in Transit policy at a BART board meeting Thursday.

The policy would limit collaboration between BART police and federal agencies such as Immigration and Customs Enforcement, or ICE, in order to promote trust between BART and community members. If the policy is adopted, BART will follow the example of several sanctuary cities in the Bay Area such as San Francisco, Berkeley and Oakland which protect undocumented immigrants from prosecution.

“The idea is to send a strong message and make it clear that BART welcomes everybody and doesn’t turn immigrants over to ICE,” said Rebecca Saltzman, president of the BART Board of Directors and supporter of the proposal. “I think it’s important to make it clear to the officers not to collaborate, and also make it clear to the public what to expect.”

Although BART police references ICE in its general policies, it is not their practice to cooperate with ICE.

“BART hasn’t interacted with ICE in the past six years,” said BART spokesperson Alicia Trost in an email.

“We just want to make sure people understand that while the board members are exploring this we already do not coordinate with ICE,” Trost said in her email.

Saltzman said she is not sure how the policy would change BART practices. According to Saltzman, there are different stages of police interaction that the policy would address, such as intervention, ticketing and arresting.

Arturo Fernandez, a campus undocumented doctoral student, said he was excited about the policy and would like to see more leaders, both in the Bay Area and nationwide, take similar steps to protect undocumented community members, as they are “just community members as anybody else.”

“If you’re going out to spend time with your family, or take BART for leisure or to go to work, it’s good to know … that BART is an entity that isn’t willing to take part in this machine that tries to take people away from their families,” Fernandez said.

ASUC senator Benyamin bin Mohd Yusof, also a campus undocumented student, said the proposal could encourage undocumented immigrants to report to BART police if they witness or become a victim of a crime, and not be afraid to contact them in fear for their own safety.

East Bay Young Republicans President Adam Castle, however, said the policy could increase safety risks, as well as threaten a federal funding cut for BART in the future.

“Implementing the Sanctuary in Transit policy is addressing a non-issue and, frankly, it kind of seems like it’s a little bit of political grandstanding by directors Simon and Josefowitz who proposed the policy,” Castle said.

Soli Alpert, a campus sophomore and a Cal Berkeley Democrats member, said he supports the proposal and sees it as part of a larger trend with more and more cities becoming sanctuaries.

“This is one part of a larger strategy we can use,” Alpert said. “Because this is good but it’s not enough.”

BART’s Operations & Safety Committee will discuss and review the proposal at its March meeting, and potentially put it up for a vote by the board of directors.

Charlotte Kosche covers schools and communities. Contact her at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @CharlotteKosche.