Some members of the Hayward Community Task
Force discuss sanctuary cities at its meeting on
Wednesday night.

A Hayward community task force on Wednesday voiced near unanimity for recommending to the Hayward City Council that it formally declare itself a sanctuary city.

The task force was formed by the City Council in January not to study the sanctuary city issue, but to update its decades-old Anti-Discrimination Action Plan. But in tandem with sanctuary cities continuing to be national boilerplate and Hayward’s place as one of the few East Bay cities yet to take a position on the issue, city staff recently asked the task force to weigh-in.

Wednesday night’s recommendation appears to be a prelude to the Hayward City Council taking up the sanctuary city debate soon. Hayward Mayor Barbara Halliday said the City Council plans to place the item on the agenda sometime in May. “We will be doing something more along the lines of a fuller kind of statement of our values,” said Halliday, who appeared swayed by comments made that night by task force members. “What people have said here tonight has really made a difference in how we move forward,” she said.

In recent months, and up until the previous night’s council meeting, Halliday had sided with an argument proffered by city staff that deemed the sanctuary city label in Hayward as superfluous and that the city’s policies were similar to the formal declaration made by other neighboring cities. The potential loss of federal funding also previously weighed heavily on Halliday’s thinking, especially more than $20 million in planned funding requests tied to improvements of Hayward’s airport.

However, Halliday said the council isn’t likely any loner to take into account the potential loss of funding. “I think we’re going to lose funding no matter what we do,” said Halliday. “I don’t think money is what is key here. I do think what the city wants to do is what’s right for Hayward and I know my own concern is just to do whatever we can to really help people.”

The community task force, which at full strength, maintains a membership of 22 residents, only included 13 members on Wednesday night. A motion calling for Hayward to become a sanctuary city garnered 11 votes, while a single task force member voted against and another abstained.

The vote was far more of a statement than an online survey administered recently by city staff asking the same sanctuary city question. In that blind survey, eight task force members backed becoming a sanctuary city, while six opposed, and two were not sure.

A reason for the change in sentiments may have been a number of passionate speeches offered by some task force members and members of the public in support of Hayward becoming a sanctuary city. “I think we’re confusing the word safe with solidarity. It goes to the point of taking a stand and saying we all stand together,” said task force member Kari McAlister. She equated the issue to the City Council’s a resolution opposing Proposition 8, the state initiative in 2008 eliminating the rights of same-sex marriages.

Back then, said McAlister, some angrily denounced the council and urged for their recall, “yet the council stood up and said ‘We’re going to do what is right here and we’re going to support our community’ and the LGBT part of our community didn’t feel safer, but we felt there was solidarity.”

Stephanie Spencer, a member of the Eden Area Interfaith Council, advocated for making a statement of support for residents and also a rebuke of President Trump’s policies. “I think we’re really kind of looking for a rational response to an irrational situation,” said Spencer. “We have no idea what’s going to happen. In a situation like this we need to look at our deepest, most clearest values to make decisions based on things that don’t change.”

Former Hayward Councilmember Kevin Dowling, also a member of the task force, not only advocated for sanctuary cities, but believes Hayward should join current lawsuits brought by San Francisco and Santa Clara Counties against Trump’s executive order that threatens sanctuary cities with the loss of federal funding.

Dowling, a close adviser to Halliday, painted the Trump administration as disorganized and much less of a threat than originally thought. “ICE can’t even put out a list of sanctuary cities that is correct,” said Dowling. In addition, most of the discretionary federal grants Hayward might be eyeing are not likely to be issued anyway, he said. “The Bay Area is not going to be a favored location whether we declare ourselves a sanctuary city or not.”

However, a few task force members were clearly wary about registering a public vote on the sanctuary city topic. Task force member Randy Wright said he signed up for the task force to update the city’s anti-discrimination plan, not to enter a debate on sanctuary cities. “The conversations that I’ve had with the public, all the feedback has been based on experiences of discrimination and not the topic of sanctuary city,” he said. “I don’t want us to create a false sense of protection and us be responsible for it,” said Wright. “It needs to be, in this political climate, with the city council and not us.”