South Pasadena City Council members, reaffirming their commitment to diversity and to safeguarding the civil rights for all residents, asked the city’s Public Safety Commission to weigh in on the national discussion about immigrant status and federal enforcement during last week’s regularly scheduled meeting at City Hall.

Council members listened to lengthy testimony during the June 21 meeting in response to concerns expressed by some residents regarding treatment of minorities and immigrants throughout the nation.

“The council wants the Public Safety Commission to look at the matter and dig a little deeper and examine some of our policies and procedures to make sure we have them memorialized in a fashion so that everyone knows the city’s position,” explained Interim City Manager Elaine Aguilar.

In addition, the council decided to have a subcommittee, comprised of council members Diana Mahmud and Dr. Richard Schneider, work with the Public Safety Commission in addressing the issue.

“The council would like to maintain a dialogue with the community,” said Aguilar. “They will schedule meetings in the council chambers during the evening hours, allowing many in the community to attend and offer input.”

In December 2016, the City Council unanimously adopted a resolution reaffirming the City of South Pasadena’s “commitment to diversity and to safeguarding the civil rights, safety and dignity of all our city residents.”

In early May, Councilmember Dr. Marina Khubesrian made a request to put on last week’s City Council agenda a discussion of the city’s existing public policies regarding cooperation with federal enforcement of immigration status.

The City Council chamber was packed as members of the public expressed their concern that the city “has a true commitment to safeguarding the civil rights of all our residents, regardless of where they were born,” explained Interim South Pasadena City Manager Elaine Aguilar. “This is a nationwide concern and the City Council has been proactive in safeguarding the dignity of everyone who lives, visits and does business in the city.”

Since the resolution was adopted, a growing number of cities in California, including South Pasadena, have taken steps to withdraw from any cooperative agreements with the federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement Agency (ICE) and identify themselves as “sanctuary” cities when it comes to immigration status enforcement.

Thirteen speakers addressed the council on the matter, but, as Aguilar pointed out, for every one that spoke there were three in the audience.

Council members received a report from South Pasadena Police Chief Art Miller regarding the city’s current policies, stating, “the police department is not paid to investigate and enforce federal law violations regarding the [ICE], nor do federal officers have the authority to demand this, absent the existence of a cooperative agreement with ICE. The City of South Pasadena has never had a cooperative agreement with ICE. Accordingly, our police department does not participate in any ICE operations which may take place in South Pasadena, nor does any South Pasadena police officer play any role in any arrest or detention of an ICE arrestee.”

Miller added that the City of South Pasadena does not operate a detention facility. “Arrests made by South Pasadena police officers for violation of local or state laws are booked at jails in Alhambra and Pasadena,” he said. “As a result, the City of South Pasadena would not be a recipient of any ICE hold request regarding anyone detained in jail, nor has the City of South Pasadena ever received such a request. Because the City of South Pasadena has never had a cooperative agreement with ICE, and does not participate in any ICE operations or play any role in any ICE arrests or detentions and is not subject to any ICE hold request, South Pasadena does not participate in any of the conduct regarding enforcement of immigration status.”

Further, Miller stressed that the designated sanctuary city is not applicable to South Pasadena or any city which does not assist ICE, and “which is not subject to any ICE hold request due to the absence of a functioning detention facility… in our city,” he said. “For all these reasons, the City Council’s December 21, 2016 resolution reaffirming this city’s commitment to diversity and safeguarding of civil rights for all of our residents is an appropriate and existing policy which extends to all persons living within, doing business within, visiting or passing through South Pasadena.”

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