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Long Beach City Council Defies President, Supports California Bills–Values Act, Religious Freedom Act

10 Feb

Photo by Barry Saks; Audience member holding sign, on Tuesday, Feb. 7, 2017 at Long Beach City Council Meeting

The Long Beach City Council, in a full chamber with a small overflow, on Tuesday, Feb. 7, voted to support California Senate Bills 31 and 54, as amended.

California State Senate Bill 31, known as California Religious Freedom Act, prevents the “state or local agency or public employee acting under color of the law” from (p)rovid(ing) or disclos(ing) to federal government authorities personally identifiable information regarding the religious beliefs, practices, or affiliation of any individual for the purpose of compiling a list, registry, or database of individuals based on religious affiliation, national origin or ethnicity” and prevents using “agency money, facilities, property equipment, or personnel” for the creation of a list, registry or database “for law enforcement or immigration purposes.”  California Senator Ricardo Lara (Democrat, 33rd District) introduced the bill.

California State Senate Bill 54, known as the “California Values Act,” states it will immediately take place, it prevents state and local law enforcement agencies from using “agency or department moneys, facilities, property, equipment, or personnel to investigate, interrogate, detain, detect, or arrest persons for immigration enforcement purposes.”  It also prevents those same law enforcement agencies from “(p)erforming the functions of an immigration officer.”  However, it doesn’t prevent the same law enforcement agencies “from responding to a request from federal immigration authorities for information about a specific person’s previous criminal arrests or convictions.”  California Senate Pro Tempore Kevin de Leon (Democrat, 24nd District) introduced the bill.

In the council chambers, during the comment period, while two speakers spoke against supporting the two bills, dozens of speakers spoke in favor and most added they wanted Long Beach to become a sanctuary city.


Photo by Barry Saks; Member of Audience Holding Sign, at the Tuesday, Feb. 7 2017, While Standing in Line to Speak During the Time for Public Comments

Just before the last speaker, many in the audience stood up and chanted, “Sanctuary, not deportation.”


Photo by Barry Saks; Members of Audience Chanting Tuesday, Feb. 7, 2017, in Council Chambers during Long Beach City Council Meeting

After public comments, 1st District Councilwoman Lena Gonzalez, who put forward the support motion, said Senate Bill 54 sets a statewide standard and asked Diana Tang, Manager of Government Affairs, about the legislative process, the status of the bills, and more specifically the issue of violent and serious crime, and human trafficking as it is related to SB54. In response, Tang said both bills are now in the Senate and because both are emergency bills, a two-thirds vote will be required in both houses.  She said, if they pass, they then will be sent to the Governor for him to consider and that SB54 is still in its original form.

The Mayor, in response to the discussion between the councilwoman and Tang, reported he had spoken that day to the Senate Pro Tempore, who told the Mayor he is in discussion with the State Police Chiefs Association to ensure there is interagency communication, particularly regarding human trafficking and other issues, and that he is looking at and supports language that allows for interagency coordination with Federal law enforcement regarding violent and serious crimes.

Then, the Councilwoman Gonzalez said while she supports the two bills, she said she also supports the same amendments the Senate Pro Tempore is pursuing.  She then amended her motion to include her two concerns.

Then, 2nd District Councilwoman Jeannine Pearce, who also signed on in support of the two bills, reminded the other councilmembers that they supported last November a motion urging the Federal government to provide Jose Alvarez humanitarian parole and then said, “As a state and as city we have gone too far and we will not go back.”  She then asked how Long Beach Police Department has implemented the recently passed California Trust Act, (Assembly Bill 4), which prohibits law enforcement from detaining an individual for Federal Immigration after the individual becomes eligible for release from custody, unless specified conditions are met.

Deputy Police Chief Michael Beckman responded.  He said LBPD complies with the California Trust Act and said since the act’s implementation, “I.C.E. (U.S. Department of Homeland Security Immigration and Customs Enforcement) has never provided the Long Beach Police Department a signed court order and/or has traveled to the Long Beach Police Department to take custody of an undocumented immigrant.”

Then 7th District City Councilman Roberto Uranga, who also endorsed the motion of support, said, “We are experiencing a President who is a thug, who is a blackmailer and who is potentially an extortionist.  He is threatening to withhold federal funds to not only the states and the state of California, but to the City of Long Beach, as well.”

Then, 3rd District City Councilwoman Suzie Price said, “I am a descendant of immigrants from one of the countries, where there is currently the ‘non-ban’ and it has been a very scary time for people in my community, as well, and I actually had an opportunity to meet with them on Sunday…. and I explained to people in that community my concerns with sanctuary city.”  For the Councilwoman, her concerns centered on the fiscal impact of the city becoming a sanctuary city and asked for clarification.

Tang said it was unclear what the fiscal impact would be.

The Councilwoman then said Long Beach becoming a sanctuary city was not the agenda.  She then voiced her concerns about Senate Bill 54 and offered an amendment to support Senate Bill 31, but asked Senate Bill 54 be sent to the State Legislative Committee and the Public Safety Committee.

Councilwoman Gonzalez responded politely and then rejected Councilwoman Price’s amendment.

Then, 8th District Councilman Al Austin said it was a “no brainer” for him to support the motion.  He added, as a suggested amendment that there may be other bills, which could be supported.  Councilwoman Gonzalez accepted his amendment.

Then, 9th District Councilman and Vice Mayor Rex Richardson, who also initially supported the motion, said, “These bills on the table they demonstrate some very critical values, religious freedom and trust….The tone in Washington is quickly eroding that trust.”

The last councilperson to speak before the vote was 4th District Councilman Daryl Supernaw.  The councilman echoed Councilwoman Price that the issue of sanctuary city was not on the agenda.  He then said because the item was not put on the agenda until Friday afternoon, consequently he was not able to notify the people in his district.

After the councilmembers spoke, the Mayor stated his support for the motion and pointed out that Long Beach is not only a city of immigrants, but also of refugees.

The council voted 7-0 for the motion with the three amendments.  Absent were 5th District Councilwoman Stacy Mungo and 6th District Councilman Dee Andrews.


Photo by Barry Saks; audience holding signs, Tuesday, Feb. 7, 2017 during the Long Beach City Council Meeting.