‘We have your back’: Alameda becomes a sanctuary city

A rally outside Alameda City Hall Tuesday in support of 
sanctuary city status attracted one protester displaying 
the photo of Kate Steinle, who was murdered by 
an undocumented immigrant last year in San Francisco.

ALAMEDA CITY COUNCIL |
Alameda is now a sanctuary city after the City Council approved a resolution Tuesday night that it believes gives some protections for residents who could potentially be adversely affected by President-elect Donald Trump’s policies.

“I stand for our immigrant population and the undocumented. I stand with our brothers and sisters of Muslim faith and all faiths,” said Alameda Councilmember Jim Oddie, who spearheaded the resolution. “You said, ‘You had our back,’ well, tonight as a council, I’m proud to say that ‘We have your back.’”


The council’s vote, 4-0, was essentially unanimous. Alameda Mayor Trish Spencer left Tuesday night’s meeting shortly after the sanctuary city discussion began in order to catch a flight to the U.S. Conference of Mayors in Washington, D.C. Spencer, though, also voiced support in her brief comments.

Alameda’s sanctuary city resolution includes prohibitions against cooperating with federal agencies in the arrest of individuals solely for immigration-only offenses. Notably, the resolution hopes to make an end run around some potential policies Trump had described during the presidential campaign, including creating a national database for Muslims and the mass deportation of undocumented immigrants. The resolution prohibits any city department from cooperating with either potential federal policy.

However, the proposed sanctuary city resolution created by city staff did not contain the legally nebulous term of sanctuary city. Alameda City Attorney Janet Kern said she was hesitant to use the term since it lacks of a definition.

Several members of the public and the council thought otherwise, voting to place the term in the resolution’s title. “It reads like a sanctuary city,” said Alameda Councilmember Frank Matarrese. “The power of those words cannot be hidden by the absence of sanctuary city.”

In addition, Matarrese reiterated a call he made last month encouraging strong communication between the council and the city manager’s office for prompt notification of all federal requests or mandates that may come down the line.

A line in the resolution asserting it does not challenge federal law was stricken by the council at the behest of Matarrese and Councilmember Malia Vella.

In a defiant and emotional speech, Vella said, “I want this resolution to absolutely conflict with an unconstitutional obligation or conflict imposed by federal law.”

“I’m not speaking to the people who feel comfortable. I speaking to the people who feel invisible or feel overlooked or unsafe,” said Vella. “And I want them to know they have a place here and we will fight.”

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