California, city of Berkeley propose sanctuary immigration legislation

An ICE police officer looks towards a scene in the background where more officers are standing outside a house.
Wikimedia/Creative Commons

Related Posts

California and the city of Berkeley are considering additional sanctuary legislation that would make businesses working as data brokers for U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, or ICE, ineligible for public contracts.

Berkeley City Council will vote Tuesday on a Sanctuary Contracting Ordinance, which would prevent the city from entering into contracts with businesses that act as data brokers or provide extreme vetting services to ICE. The new legislation would not apply to businesses where alternative services are not available or to companies currently under contract with the city, according to District 4 City Councilmember Kate Harrison, one of the bill’s co-sponsors.

“Two ICE agents walk into a bar. If that bar sells them a drink, that doesn’t make them a data broker for ICE,” Harrison said. “But if they go into a bar, and the bar gives them information about all the people in the bar and their families and the other bars they drink at, and if they’re in the U.S. illegally, that would make them a data broker.”

Similar legislation was proposed at the state level Friday by state Assemblymember Rob Bonta, D-Oakland. The bill would enact policies analogous to those proposed in the Berkeley city ordinance for all cities and counties in California. Bonta said there are also plans to extend the provision to affect public contracts at the state level.

Bonta added that though he expects some opposition from local governments and law enforcement, the bill is a “common sense” action that would reflect California’s “values” by protecting immigrants.

“I think we are in a situation where our immigrants in California are in a full-frontal assault from the Trump administration,” Bonta said. “We are going to put our buying power in California and our cities — where our values are. We are not going to do business with, or invest in, companies that are helping the Trump deportation regime.”

In a memo released to City Council members, Berkeley City Manager Dee Williams-Ridley warned that the proposed ordinance would “significantly obstruct” the functions of important departments in the city, including the police and fire departments, as well as the City Attorney’s Office.

Williams-Ridley said in the memo that services used to integrate police reports and 911 calls as well as the research database used by the City Attorney’s Office would be impacted by the proposed ordinance. She added that the city would also be affected financially by the manpower required to implement the new ordinance.

Harrison, however, maintained that because the ordinance would only apply to companies that have contracts with ICE to act as data brokers or provide vetting services, it would have a more limited impact than predicted by the city manager.

ASUC Senator Nick Araujo said in an email he thinks the legislation is “a step in the right direction.” He added, however, that because it has the possibility to draw the attention of federal immigration agents, he would like to see the City Council investigate additional policies to support the undocumented community.

“This bill benefits the city by increasing trust and engagement between disenfranchised communities and their city council, but does little in ensuring undocumented students, in particular, feel safe on their college campus,” Araujo said in an email.

Contact Alexandra Stassinopoulos at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @AE_Stass.