Sanctuary City Status Explored; Community voices opinions!
The Fort Bragg City Council quickly appointed an ad hoc committee comprised of Lindy Peters and Dave Turner with staff input to explore the notion of declaring it a “sanctuary city” to protect undocumented people from potential deportation.
While the initial meeting took place privately without public participation, the Ad Hoc Committee held a public session on November 28 at 3:00PM to gather community input before making a recommendation that night at the last council meeting where the current members would make decisions.
A standing room only crowd filled Town Hall to hear the current status on local immigration issues and share their viewpoints on this emotional topic. Staff and Council members did an effective job of explaining the current policies and laws regarding collecting immigration status information and how it is used. Basically neither law enforcement, nor any other staff, asks people what their status is so it is not reported as per state law. The only way information is reported is when a person is arrested their fingerprints are submitted to national data bases which may bring them to the attention of Immigration & Customs Enforcement (ICE). ICE, under the direction of a federal judge, can request a jail or prison to hold a violent prisoner for two days after their release date to give ICE time to take the prisoner into custody. (President Obama actually strengthened federal rights to information for detention) Since Fort Bragg does not have a jail, this issue is moot and would only be relevant to the Sheriff’s Department.
While Chief Lizarraga reiterated his desire to build trusting relationships with the Latino community and pointing out his own heritage, some concerns seems to be rooted in the 1980’s when federal agents came into Fort Bragg and did a sweep of businesses and places they suspected were harboring undocumented people. This situation was outside of the Chief’s control and nobody appears to really know the outcome of that horrible event.
While most of the many speakers were advocating designating Fort Bragg sanctuary status there were also a number of people concerned about potential negative impacts of formally making this distinction. Watch the video as a large number of citizens spoke from the heart on both sides of the issue.
My personal concern and testimony is that the President-Elect has made it clear he will cut federal funds to cities that identify themselves as sanctuary cities. Fort Bragg is very dependent on grants, including those that support organizations close to the hearts of people requesting that designation. City Attorney Samantha Zeigler downplayed those concerns because federal cuts will have to pass Congress and will be litigated in the courts. I do believe that Congress, with a clear Republican majority, will support those cuts given their historical desires to do so and while challenging lawsuits are helpful, those legal remedies may take decades to resolve. So, I think Fort Bragg will be in financial turmoil should that happen.
The end result of that meeting, as well as the City Council meeting later that evening, is not to formally designate Fort Bragg as a sanctuary city. There is a desire and willingness of both the City Council and community to pursue a dialog that can result in a resolution which will address a variety of community values and support for a variety of social concerns which may be threatened with the current political rhetoric.