October 25 2017

In its commitment to protect immigrants, who are integral to its economy and culture, California has just passed SB54. The “Sanctuary State Bill” would limit how local and state law enforcement can interact with federal immigration enforcement by protecting records and personal information of undocumented immigrants present here.

Long Beach Building Healthy Communities residents advocating for sanctuary for undocumented Californians in Long Beach.

 

The passage of this bill has once again positioned California at the forefront of progress on immigrant rights protections. Still, due to the current political climate, immigrants are facing the threat of a highly uncertain future.

BHC Long Beach, like many BHC sites, sees first-hand the destruction that federal immigration policies are causing families and hardworking individuals. We are seeing those impacts play out on a local level. While SB54 was a step in the right direction, we needed to go further to protect undocumented immigrants in our own community.

The Sanctuary Long Beach campaign began in January shortly after the election and consisted of two main goals. First, we wanted to pass a local policy that would limit interactions between our city’s law enforcement and federal immigration officials. This would also include a deportation defense fund to provide legal representation for detained immigrants. Second, we wanted to create a rapid response network that would allow the community to mobilize in response to actions by federal immigration officers. We chose “Sanctuary for All” as our rallying cry because we believe everyone in the community – from every faith, gender, preference or ethnicity – should feel safe, and be able to trust their local law enforcement.

Long Beach Building Healthy Communities residents wait outside City Council chambers.

 

In February, in response to our campaign, the Long Beach City Council signed a resolution urging the state legislature to pass SB54, but it didn’t address the range of local concerns felt on the ground by those most affected. Unsatisfied, we worked with the National Immigration Law Center and UCLA law students to create a detailed and thoroughly researched policy, which reflected our campaign’s goals. It’d showed the council members that we had a tangible solution, not just empty words.

Over the next 5 months we worked hand-in-hand with partner organizations to continue making our voices heard. We engaged in demonstrations and organized delegations of community members to speak directly with council members. Our efforts would not have been possible without the involvement of the community and nonprofits like the Long Beach Immigrant Rights Coalition, the Long Beach Coalition for Good Jobs and a Healthy Community, the Filipino Migrant Center, and Long Beach Sacred Resistance, among others.

Only when all these voices came together as one did city leaders begin to listen. On September 19, Long Beach City Council voted on the motion with the majority in favor of our initiative. The council appointed city staff to work with members of our campaign to create the policy in 60 days – a notably rare outcome since often the city staff functions without community input. Additionally, we will include a health impact report on the policy, examining how it will improve health outcomes for residents on things like chronic stress from the fear of deportation and reporting domestic violence disputes. Last week we had our first policy development meeting with the city to begin drafting the official policy language.

This was an empowering and eye-opening victory for Long Beach residents; immigration may be a complex issue to tackle, but these developments show that there’s a lot individuals and local organizations can do to come together and protect those in need.

 

 

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