Hayward Mayor Barbara Halliday, leader of one
of the largest Latino communities, in the Bay Area
voiced skepticism Feb. 24 about sanctuary cities.

Hayward’s lack of urgency when it comes to alleviating the fears among its minority and immigrant communities is unique in the Greater East Bay. Since January, city councils in Emeryville, Alameda, San Leandro and Fremont have become sanctuary cities, while Oakland and Berkeley have recently reaffirmed existing declarations.

But curiously, Hayward, with one of the largest Latino populations in the Bay Area, has taken a slow bureaucratic track toward protection its immigrant and Muslim communities. Instead, the Hayward City Council chose in January to convene a large 22-person task force to update its existing anti-discrimination policy.

At the time, some Hayward officials suggested a sanctuary city policy could arise from the working group, but the timetable could be long before the item ever comes before the city council.

Hayward’s ambivalence toward sanctuary cities may have been highlighted by an exchange at the Hayward Area Democratic Club on Feb. 24 between Mayor Barbara Halliday, herself a member, and another named Enedina Padilla, who described herself as an immigrant and supportive of Hayward becoming a sanctuary city. [AUDIO BELOW]

But Halliday downplayed Padilla’s immigration-related fears because she was a legal resident. After Padilla appeared to be overwhelmed with emotion, she briefly paused before Halliday interjected, “Are you at risk?” Padilla replied, no.

“So it’s easy for you to say that when you’re not at risk,” said Halliday. The comment appeared to have angered Padilla, who said she was offended as the pace and force of her words quickened. Some who witnessed the exchange said Halliday’s comment came across as insensitive due to the fact Padilla was one of only a small number of Latinos in a room of mostly older, white members. For Halliday to ask someone of Latino heritage whether they were legal or not was inappropriate, according to a source who witnessed the exchange.

Earlier, another Hayward Area Democratic Club member said the notion of sanctuary city in Hayward was “insulting to people who have been doing an incredibly good job for a long time.” The club eventually approved a resolution urging for Hayward to become sanctuary city. Halliday did not vote.

Coordination between Hayward Police and the U.S. Immigration and Custom Enforcement (ICE), however, has long created fear and mistrust among Hayward’s Latino communities going back to the President George W. Bush-era Secure Communities program (An executive order signed by President Trump in January aims to reinstitute Secure Communities.)

In March 2016, Fox News reported a large and high-profile immigration sting conducted in Hayward with coordination between the U.S. Homeland Security Department, Alameda County Sheriffs Department, and Hayward Police resulted in the arrest of 11 suspected foreign gang members.
In addition, Hayward’s three Latino councilmembers have been noticeably quiet on the subject despite making appearances at public rallies in support of immigrants and opposing President Trump’s policies.

At a chilly rally in front of Hayward City Hall last January, numerous speakers slammed Trump while Councilmembers Francisco Zermeno, Elisa Marquez and Mark Salinas watched, but none chose to address the group. Salinas has also made appearances at other rallies and events in support of immigrants, some covered by local television news stations, but did not offered a comment.

Pressure on Hayward elected officials to become a sanctuary city is likely to build in the next few weeks. Alameda County Democratic Party leaders have made it a priority for every city in the county to adopt the designation. Hayward’s Anti-Discrimination Task Force meets for the second time next Monday at City Hall, 6 p.m.

Minutes after the San Leandro Council approved sanctuary city status on Feb. 21, local Democratic Party Chair Robin Torello referenced Hayward was next on her wish list. “On to the next city,” she said. “It starts with a ‘H’.”