President Trump in the final days of January signed two executive orders that, combined the usual thicket of American politics, greatly complicated Mayor Brand’s life.
The first, signed Jan. 25, is titled “Enhancing Public Safety in the Interior of the United States.”
The order begins by stating “(i)nterior enforcement of our Nation’s immigration laws is critically important to the national security and public safety of the United States. Many aliens who illegally enter the United States and those who overstay or otherwise violate the terms of their visas present a significant threat to national security and public safety. This is particularly so for aliens who engage in criminal conduct in the United States.”
Then the order tackles the concept of sanctuary cities, of which California has many.
“Sanctuary jurisdictions across the United States willfully violate Federal law in an attempt to shield aliens from removal from the United States,” the order states. “These jurisdictions have caused immeasurable harm to the American people and to the very fabric of our Republic…. We cannot faithfully execute the immigration laws of the United States if we exempt classes or categories of removable aliens from potential enforcement.”
The order directs federal agencies to immediately begin enforcing immigration laws. The order also seeks allies in this job.
“To the extent permitted by law and with the consent of State or local officials, as appropriate,” the order states, “the Secretary shall take appropriate action, through agreements…to authorize State and local law enforcement officials, as the Secretary determines are qualified and appropriate, to perform the functions of immigration officers in relation to the investigation, apprehension, or detention of aliens in the United States….”
Just in case there’s any doubt about the President’s will, the order states that the Executive Branch will “(e)nsure that jurisdictions that fail to comply with applicable Federal law do not receive Federal funds, except as mandated by law….”
The second Executive Order of note, signed by Trump on Jan. 27, is titled “Protecting the Nation from Foreign Terrorist Entry Into the United States.” This order has more to do with the temporary restriction of immigration from certain countries than with the responsibility of local governments to enforce federal immigration law. But both orders, coming so close to each other and dealing with conflicting but deeply-held American principles, served to spark a question from The Bee to Mayor Brand: Any chance Fresno will become a sanctuary city?
A superb question. Brand said Fresno wouldn’t be a sanctuary city. That only got the Mayor in hot water with certain folks.
That led to Brand’s news conference on Feb. 3 at City Hall. I didn’t attend. But city officials did post Brand’s formal remarks on the city’s website.
“I am here to set the record straight and to calm the fears and anxieties of so many people in our community who feel threatened by the flurry of announcements coming from Washington, D.C. and Sacramento,” Brand said.
The Mayor said America is a land of immigrants.
“We are a beacon of hope and freedom to the rest of the world,” Brand said. “Immigrants, both those who are documented and those who are undocumented, works and live among us. They are an integral part of the multi-cultural fabric that is the City of Fresno. They make valuable contributions to our economy and our community.”
Brand said Fresno police will continue to follow department policy No. 428. This policy states in part that the police will provide “equal enforcement of the law and equal service to the public, regardless of alien status.”
The department’s policy is “that officers shall not enforce violations of immigration law or status.”
The department’s policy is that a suspicion of undocumented status is not enough reason by itself for an officer to stop or arrest an individual.
Then came Brand’s money quote: “The only difference between Fresno and other cities who label themselves as sanctuary cities are only words with no clear definition. I ask the people here today and throughout the community to judge me and the City of Fresno by our actions.”
Permit me several quick thoughts on the significance of all of the above:
1.) I’ve got no idea what Brand means in the first sentence of that money quote. Maybe it’s the presence of “only” twice so close together that confuses me. The words “Fresno and other cities who label themselves as sanctuary cities” makes me think Fresno actually is a sanctuary city. And this notion of “only words with no clear meaning” being the sole difference between Fresno and sanctuary cities makes my head hurt. If Fresno is a sanctuary city by common law rather than codified law, tell us plain and simple.
2.) I don’t see how Brand’s formal comments could “calm the fears and anxieties” of any worried Fresnan. He’s saying policy No. 428 is magic: We enforce the law, but when we don’t it’s technically not a lack of enforcement. If City Hall’s policy is to ignore laws it doesn’t like, fine. But please, Mayor, tell us in so many words. And get the City Council to endorse that policy with an open session vote.
3.) Recall, if you will, Dyer’s earlier comments about those big operations in 2016 against powerful and dangerous street gangs. Those operations were multi-agency affairs. Federal agencies took part in them. Does Brand’s refusal to work with federal immigration authorities mean he’ll refuse to work with federal agencies that work with federal immigration authorities? Seems to me one degree of separation isn’t going to give anyone at City Hall the moral high ground.
4.) Fresno in the mid- and late-1990s began to get on top of the murder/violent crime disaster thanks to a rapid expansion of the police force. Many of those new cops were funded for specific periods of time with federal grants. Let’s see – Brand wants more parks, more maintenance for aging facilities, more infrastructure projects, more code enforcement, more fire service and 25% more cops in a department that consumes about half of the general fund. I’m guessing federal grants are part of the Mayor’s funding plan.
5.) California is a one-party state. That party hates Donald Trump. The mayors of California’s biggest cities hate Trump. All these Trump-haters want Trump driven from office, and are doing all they can to make it happen. Fine. Politics ain’t bean-bag, as Mr. Dooley said. But Brand is stuck because Fresno is in California, not Indiana. He’ll have to pick a side if he hopes to earn a productive role in either the state or national arena. The way things are going, he can’t win in both.
6.) The “sanctuary city” idea depends on geography. Some political leaders want to turn California into a sanctuary state. The idea works in the other direction – Fresno has long had sanctuary neighborhoods. But in Fresno’s sanctuary neighborhoods, the outcasts aren’t ICE agents; they are police officers. What is the Fresno Police Department’s much-ballyhooed “shot spotter” technology than an admission that the city is full of neighborhoods whose residents refuse to cooperate with Fresno police officers in the same way that Fresno police officers refuse to cooperate with federal immigration officials. Again, this is fine if that’s what Fresnans want. But we must not fool ourselves. The moral superiority of “sanctuary” geography can turn on us.
7.) What are the chances that a nation that doesn’t care about its own sovereignty will give a damn about any other nation’s sovereignty?
Photo: The Fresno Bee