Residents push for change in LAPD immigration enforcement

The Los Altos City Council was scheduled to sign a Diverse Community resolution at Tuesday’s meeting, after the Town Crier’s press deadline, but the local residents who pushed for inclusivity think it may not go far enough.

Residents involved with the Peninsula Peace and Justice Center delivered a letter last month requesting that the council draft a resolution to be a “welcoming” city and change city laws concerning how police enforce immigration policies. The resolution soon may be enacted, but the effects of policy changes remain to be seen.

The resolution, on the consent calendar for the Feb. 14 council meeting, states “The City of Los Altos rejects bigotry in all its forms, including, but not limited to, Islamophobia, anti-Semitism, racism, nativism, misogyny and homophobia.” It also declares that the city will work to ensure the rights of everyone in Los Altos “regardless of religion, ancestry, country of birth, immigration status, disability, gender, sexual orientation or gender identity.”

“I think the resolution is a good statement, and I too will be there to speak in support of it,” said Paul George, a Los Altos resident and executive director of the Peninsula Peace and Justice Center in Palo Alto. “At the same time, I will again encourage the council and police department to amend the language in the Police Policy Manual.”

George wanted Los Altos to take the lead on the Peninsula in repealing its laws guiding when a police officer contacts federal immigration authorities. President Donald Trump campaigned on a platform that included deporting millions of undocumented immigrants.

Police response

According to Los Altos Police Chief Andy Galea, the policy in question (section 428) is “a very small to almost nonexistent portion” of police work in Los Altos.

“Public safety is the primary concern of the Los Altos Police Department, not immigration,” Galea said. “In order to do our jobs effectively, we need the trust and confidence of the community. Regardless of immigration status, if someone needs our assistance for any reason, we will be there to help in any way possible.”

Galea added that the police department can and has helped crime victims secure temporary immigration benefits.

Barbara Weinstein of Los Altos said she appreciated Galea’s sentiments – and wants to see those sentiments reflected in law.

“What Galea said ... is much more the spirit we would like to see in writing,” she said.

The Peninsula Peace and Justice Center hopes to spark change in Los Altos and have it spread through the community. But that work might be accomplished from the top down by a bill introduced by California Senate leader Kevin de Leon. Senate Bill 54, the California Values Act, would prohibit the use of any state or local resources to aid federal immigration authorities. The bill passed the public safety committee last week and will go to the state Senate Appropriations Committee soon.

“The state of California will be your wall of justice should the incoming administration adopt an inhumane and over-reaching mass-deportation policy,” de Leon said.

State Assemblyman Marc Berman, who represents Los Altos, Los Altos Hills and Mountain View, said the bill would take a long time to reach the Assembly.

“It is too early at this time for me to know how I will vote on the bill, or even what the bill will look like when I get a chance to vote on it,” Berman said. “That said, I do not support state and local law enforcement agencies and school police and security departments using resources to investigate, detain, detect, report or arrest persons for immigration enforcement purposes.”

Weinstein, one of the 108 Los Altos residents who signed the letter to the council, said it was important for the city to take a stand no matter what.

“Los Altos is a quiet little community. We tend to follow other places, and in a way we feel like an enclave,” she said. “But I think that the current situation reminds us that we really can’t afford to do that.”

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