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MV council offers ‘symbolic’ protection of undocumented workers

The Mountain View City Council unanimously supported additional policy language at its Oct. 24 meeting that, at least symbolically, provides security for the city’s undocumented workers while offering passive resistance to the federal government’s efforts to stem illegal immigration.

The newly adopted language states that the city is prohibited from contributing to identity-based registries; detaining, relocating or interning individuals on the basis of religion, national origin or ethnicity; and will not enforce federal civil immigration laws.

The changes will be combined with the city’s Equitable Communities Resolution, passed earlier this year. New language proclaims that the city “does not use resources to … support any government program requiring the registration of individuals, creation of a database of individuals, and/or detention, relocation or internment of individuals on the basis of religion, national origin or ethnicity.”

Also added: “It is neither the city of Mountain View’s mission nor role to enforce federal immigration laws. Members of the city’s police department will not detain or arrest any person on the basis of a person’s citizenship or status under civil immigration laws.”

Supporters, opponents weigh in

The council approved the new wording after hearing from a series of supporters, many with green tags reading “Yes Sanctuary, No Registry.” Speakers conveyed instances of living in fear. One parent underscored the impact on children of immigrants at her child’s school, noting that some were “afraid to go to the park.”

From a practical standpoint, councilmembers acknowledged that the wording would have no effect on the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency “doing what it wants to do,” as one member put it.

Councilwoman Margaret Abe-Koga offered the problematic scenario of the city’s immigration stance hampering joint task force efforts with the FBI.

The city’s action drew strong reaction from those in favor of enforcing federal immigration policies. An Oct. 26 Mercury News article on the issue generated reader comments such as “Treason under our Constitution,” “They have no business here,” “How about an ordinance asking ‘immigrants’ to respect the laws?” and “The (Mountain View) councilmembers have joined the ranks of the criminals they harbor.” None of the readers used his or her name in commenting.

Abe-Koga and Councilman Chris Clark expressed reservations about curbing the ability of the city’s police officers to exercise discretion.
“I hope the symbolic value is worthy of taking away that discretion,” Clark said.

Abe-Koga wondered about the “unintended consequences” of the city’s policy.

But Councilwoman Pat Showalter said even symbolic support could reduce some of the anxiety of undocumented residents, knowing the city was on their side.

“I’m trying to think about ways we can help them with the fear,” she said.

Councilmembers directed city staff to implement five action items related to undocumented residents, prohibiting staff from requiring anyone to report their immigration status before providing city services, unless required by law; reviewing all policies to ensure that information collected is limited; removing questions regarding immigration status from all city forms unless required by law; making information about the city’s immigration policies easy to access; and allowing the use of country-of-origin documents for identification instead of requiring a U.S. driver’s license or ID card.

For more information on the Equitable Communities Resolution and other city initiatives to support local immigrant families, visit mountainview.gov/communityforall.

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