Roberto Herrera speaks at Sanctuary City rally before councilEXPAND
Roberto Herrera speaks at Sanctuary City rally before council
Photo by Gabriel San Roman / OC Weekly

Santa Ana Becomes Orange County's 1st "Sanctuary City," Moves to End ICE Jail Contract

Santa Ana city council members celebrated a symbolic night with a unanimous vote declaring Orange County's Latino immigrant epicenter a sanctuary city. Councilwoman Michele Martinez was away on official business; Mayor-for-Life Miguel Pulido didn't bother showing up for the big moment, period. City staff noted the Mayor gave no reason for his absence. Councilman Sal Tinajero and his colleagues moved then to mark it "unexcused"—SAVAGE!!!

With the Don Papi a no-show, the city's activists pressured the council to move beyond a symbolic sanctuary city resolution and deepen its Aztlanista commitment before Donald Trump is inaugurated as Bigot-in-Chief on January 20 with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) in his small hands. "Symbolic words have never been sufficient," said Salvador G. Sarmiento, Legislative Affairs Director for the National Day Laborer Organizing Network, at a rally outside city hall before council. "A city with an [ICE] contract is not a sanctuary city!"

Speakers from the Orange County Immigrant Rights Working Group focused on key points during public comments. They urged the council to ensure a true sanctuary city by withholding sensitive immigrant status information from la migra, create a task force to oversee the resolution's transition into an ordinance before inauguration day, and provide an urgent timeline for ending the ICE contract for use of the city jail. Activists also pushed for a "cite-and-release" policy by Santa Ana police where, by discretion, low-level offenders wouldn't be booked in county jails where they become subject to the Orange County Sheriff's Department's (OCSD) 287(g) agreement—the only county in California still collaborating with ICE in that way!

"People are afraid because the cause of hate has given permission to a bunch of people in the nation to continue harassing and dividing our families,"said America Bracho, Executive Director of Latino Health Access. "Santa Ana has to say clearly that we have an ordinance that prohibits any harassment or prosecution of people because they don't have documents."

Notably joining the Don Papi in absence were the Trump trolls. Back in May, anti-immigrant losers hashed it out at SanTana city council over the fate of the ICE contract with the Orange County Register equating pro-immigrant activists with them as "both extremes" of the issue. This time around, not even self-hater Lupe Moreno bothered showing up to City Hall and speaking out against the sanctuary city resolution. With the ICE contract and the city jail's 16 related jobs, the Santa Ana Police Officers Association didn't bother making a show of force, either.

Loser Lupe back in the day surrounded by her kind: nasty, hateful gabachas
Loser Lupe back in the day surrounded by her kind: nasty, hateful gabachas
Photo by Daffodil J. Altan

When the city council finally discussed becoming a sanctuary, they pledged to do more than just pass a resolution. Councilman Sal Tinajero noted the election of Trump affected him deeply, and that his daughter came back from school retelling classmates anxieties over family separations. "Today it's going to be a [sanctuary] resolution, but I want it to go before us at the next meeting for an actual ordinance," Tinjero said to great applause. By that time, a new council will be seated with Jose Solorio and Juan Villegas, two police union-backed politicians, joining the Don Papi. "I hope that you hold those other council members feet to the fire because they're Latinos too," Tinajero told the audience. "But be assured that the rest of us are resolved to make sure that the message is loud and clear to the community: that you will be protected and this is a safe haven."

Tinajero also wanted firmer language in the resolution committed to establishing a task force—a win for activists—before the council unanimously voted 5-0 to declare SanTana a sanctuary city. The audience gave the city council a standing ovation.

Next came the ICE contract that's been in existence for a decade and that the Weekly first reported on. In the past, the city has sought to make more money off immigrant detainees all the while activists marched against the contract, even staging a hunger strike earlier this year to pressure its end.

The council didn't come through last night with a stricter timeline for phasing out of the contract before its 2020 expiration date, opting instead to cap the maximum number of detainees at 128 with a projected cost of $663,743 in lost annual revenue. At the beginning of this year, ICE detained 239 immigrants at the city jail. Last month, the number dwindled down to 151. But capping off the number of immigrant detainees even lower may move ICE's hand.

Hunger strikers, earlier this year
Hunger strikers, earlier this year
Photo by Gabriel San Román

"My opinion is, as soon as ICE receives this message that we're reducing the number of inmates we're going to house, they're going to cancel the entire contract," councilman Vicente Sarmiento said.  He stressed the importance of quickly moving on a Jail Reuse Study to help plug an expected $2 million dollar deficit. The rest of the council joined in with another unanimous vote.

Outside of City Hall, pro-immigrant activists hailed the historic night, while still vowing to continue pushing the new, incoming council. "They are committing to reducing the amount of people detained here in Santa Ana, they're not necessarily committing to end the ICE contract up until it expires in 2020," says Resilience OC organizer Roberto Herrera. He expects that the Jail Reuse Study will keep the ICE contract in place until December 2017, with the earliest cancellation coming the following spring.

"For us, a win on this would have been a commitment from council to get a timeline on ending the ICE contract in four or six months," Herrera added. "The Jail Reuse Study is one timeline, the ICE contract is another timeline, but they're connecting them both because most of the revenue coming into the jail is the ICE contract."

The clock is ticking with Trump's inauguration just a few weeks away and the ill-tempered Pepe-Elect threatening to deport three million undocumented immigrants upfront, the same number of "illegal votes" he lied about costing him the popular vote. So kudos to santaneros for the first step in the right direction, and #fucktrump!

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