BART Board approves Safe Transit policy

Daniel Kim/Senior Staff

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A policy declaring BART’s commitment to ensuring safety and inclusivity for all BART riders regardless of race, gender, sexual orientation or immigration status was passed 8-1 by the BART Board of Directors on Thursday.

The Safe Transit policy prevents BART employees — including members of the BART Police Department — from asking about riders’ immigration statuses unless directed by state laws, federal regulations or court orders. The policy also prohibits the use of BART funds and resources on enforcement of federal immigration laws.

BART Board President Rebecca Saltzman said in the past, several riders have informed the BART Board that they feel unsafe during their commutes, because of either their own or a family member’s undocumented status.

“This policy protects those people and tells them that they’re safe on BART,” Saltzman said. “Even if this gets just a few more people feeling safe and riding BART, then it’s been effective.”

The policy, which was co-sponsored by BART directors Nicholas Josefowitz and Lateefah Simon, was revised over several months to ensure both the protection of riders and compliance with local and federal laws, Saltzman said.

Saltzman added that the policy is in effect immediately, but formal implementation into the BART Police Department code is ongoing.

BART director Bevan Dufty said that he believes the policy sends a “strong message” to riders that “they will not be harassed.”

“Everyone (should) feel that they will be safe and not targeted by law enforcement based on perceived immigration status or any other characteristic,” Dufty said. “People should know that they can safely transit on BART and not be fearful.”

Debora Allen, the sole BART director who voted against the policy, could not be reached for comment.

California State Sen. Nancy Skinner endorsed the Safe Transit policy in “support (of) safe and accessible public transportation for all,” according to an emailed statement.

Skinner added in the statement that “our limited transit resources should remain dedicated to service delivery, not cooperation with federal immigration enforcers for extraneous purposes.”

The Safe Transit policy, according to Berkeley Mayor Jesse Arreguín, would allow BART police officers to focus on protecting the community rather than performing the jobs of federal agencies such as Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

“Maintaining separation between federal agencies and local law enforcement would allow riders to report crime, pay fines and be more involved in the local economy,” Arreguín wrote in the letter.

Shasun Sulur, co-director of local affairs in the ASUC Office of the External Affairs Vice President, said in an email that the policy has a similar role to that of sanctuary cities — including the city of Berkeley — in doing “everything they can to keep their communities safe and (allowing) them to prosper.”

Sulur added that it is important for the many UC Berkeley students who rely on BART to have access to safe transit.

“In the midst of our chaotic national political climate, the passage of the Safe Transit policy reaffirms the San Francisco East Bay’s commitment to embrace progressive beliefs,” Sulur said in an email.

Contact Valerie Hsieh at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @valhsieh.