Anaheim: Tait and Moreno Straddle Political Fissure of Sanctuary Cities

The Santa Ana City Council has embraced sanctuary city status with reckless gusto, as councilmembers fell over themselves to lead “the resistance” to what they imagine is coming from the Trump Administration.

The situation has been more muddled in Anaheim. Councilmembers Kris Murray, Lucille Kring, Steve Faessel and Denise Barnes have variously indicated their opposition to refusing cooperation with federal immigration authorities.

By contrast, during the 2016 campaign District 3 Councilmember Jose F. Moreno unabashedly supported  turning Anaheim into a sanctuary city. However, since drawing the two-year seat during the casting of lots in December, the left-wing Chicano Studies professor is much more circumspect on the topic, dodging questions as to whether he still supports sanctuary city status for Anaheim.

Mayor Tom Tait campaigned hard to elect progressive Democrat Moreno to the city council, but has been silent on the question of sanctuary city status for Anaheim. At the same time, he has been working closely the liberal Democratic mayors of two major sanctuary cities to craft an immigration platform incorporating coded language which essentially gives the explosive sanctuary city issue the wink-and-nod treatment.

While Donald Trump was being inaugurated,  Mayor Tom Tait was in Washingon, DC for the US Conference of Mayors (USCM) co-authoring the associations “emergency resolution” on immigration with Eric Garcetti, Ed Murray and Jorge Elorza – the liberal Democratic mayors of Los Angeles, Seattle and Providence, respectively.

The resolution notes past USCM support for border strengthening, streamlining the immigration visa process, and”implementing a framework” for illegal immigrants to become legal residents and citizens. Specifically, it adopts the politically mainstream positions of  supporting a pathway to legal status for DREAMers and the parents of illegal immigrants serving in the Armed Forces.

The Tait-Garcetti-Murray-Elorza resolution uses vague, circuitous language USCM support for “welcoming and secure cities for all residents, regardless of who they are or where they come from” and “respecting “the dignity, health, rights and privacy of all our residents” – in but terms of law enforcement, the resolution called for “ensuring that local law enforcement is focused on community policing.” [emphases added.]

While it avoids explicitly endorsing sanctuary city policies, intentional references to “respecting privacy” and focusing on community policing in the larger context of immigration (legal and illegal) puts the USCM resolution on the side of non-cooperation with federal law enforcement.

Furthermore, Tait’s co-authors publicly advocate for municipal non-cooperation with federal immigration authories and are lambasting Trump’s executive order. Los Angeles and Seattle are bona fide sanctuary cities. Last week, Seattle Mayor Murray went so far as to compare cutting off federal funding for sanctuary cities to the forced internment Japanese-American citizens during World War II.

Garcetti and other LA city leaders are creating a $10 million legal defense fund to pay for illegal immigrants to fight deportation. Providence Mayor Elorza has vowed to maintain the city’s policy of refusing to detain for possible deportation undocumented immigrants charged with non-violent offenses. even if it results in the loss of federal funding.

Mayor Tait has been essentially silent on the sanctuary city issue, even while emerging as the strongest supporter of Moreno’s “Welcome Anaheim” idea, which many observers suspect is a sub rosa sanctuary city initiative given the District 3 councilman’s record of support for the idea and outside-the-mainstream immigration ideas.

Only three years ago, the mayor joined Councilmembers Kris Murray, Gail Eastman and Lucille Kring in opposing a resolution by then-Councilman Jordan Brandman calling for an end to deportations and giving legal protection to illegal immigrants who aren’t serious criminals.

“To ask a president to ignore a law, to ignore an oath that he took, I don’t think it’s good for a mayor to do that,” Tait said at the time.

During his stint as a councilman, Tait and then-Councilman Bob Zemel strongly supported a 1996 program in which the Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) stationed agents in the Anaheim jail to screen the immigration status of arrestees.

When the INS announced its intention to end the pilot program because its agents found “only” 24% of arrestees were undocumented, Tait advocated for keeping the program.  The Los Angeles Times reported:

Councilman Tom Tait, who has worked with Zemel on the INS effort, said it “would be crazy” to end the program at this point.

“Even if it is 24%, that’s a significant number,” Tait said. “If we could address 24% of our crime by having agents in our jail, that’s a small investment to make.”

“What the federal government might consider to be minor offenses aren’t necessarily minor offenses in our community,” Tait said.

Fast forward to today, and Tait is now following Moreno’s lead on immigration. Key Moreno constituencies – the radical hotel workers union UNITE-HERE and its community organizing arm OCCORD – have demanded the council declare Anaheim a sanctuary city and make ti a center of “resistance” to Trump Administration policies.

The key question is whether Tait and Moreno’s Welcome Anaheim task force is a vehicle for embracing sanctuary city status at a politically opportune moment, or just a re-iteration of the existing “Hi Neighbor” and “City of Kindness” programs specifically tailored for immigrant residents. If one takes a step back, the whole idea seems an exercise in municipal esteem-building therapy.

What will be telling will be how Tait and Moreno respond to attempts by their council colleagues to ensure the Welcome Anaheim task force is transparent and open to different points of view. At the December 20 council meeting, Tait and Moreno politely but firmly rebuffed request to give each councilmember an appointee to the task force. Reading between the lines, it was abundantly clear they want to keep the task force under their control.  It will be telling if they refuse requests to ensure transparency by publishing task force membership, agendas, minutes and broadcasting the meetings, and insists on controlling the membership of the task force.

The sanctuary city issue will only continue to build in intensity as the Trump Administration moves forward with its crackdown and the progressive constituencies that support Moreno and Tait demand action from them. The Welcome Anaheim task force in its ostensible soft-soap form will not satiate these constituencies appetite for “resistance.” It’s an open question how long Moreno and Tait can balance keeping that part of their political coalition happy while not moving sar far left as to endanger Moreno’s re-election chances in 2018.

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