By Morgan Brizee
The City of Arcata is looking into joining other cities and potentially becoming an official sanctuary city for undocumented immigrants. The city of Arcata already has policies in place stating the city will not help or join forces with the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement and will not question undocumented immigrants. Arcata proclaiming itself as a sanctuary city feels to some just a label since it will not necessarily change any policies the city already has in place.
Sofia Pereira, the vice-mayor of Arcata, addressed those concerns.
“I think it is an important statement to make of one showing a solidarity with other cities that have put themselves out there to take this position,” Pereira said. “Also I think it clearly communicates to our residents, especially those that are undocumented that we value them and we are going to fight for them and that they are a valuable part of our community.” ]
Susan Ornelas is the Arcata city mayor and is worried that should President Trump’s threats become true, federal funding may be cut in the event Arcata becomes a sanctuary city.
“I’m weary of it because it is like taunting a bully and it’s like what’s the point,” Ornelas said. “Our policies are already that we don’t turn people over to immigration just for being undocumented.”
But to some people, the words sanctuary city is more than putting a label on a city, more than just some words. To some the words “Sanctuary City” are powerful and have meaning behind them.
Dave Meserve, 67-year-old former Arcata city council member from 2002-2006, is for Arcata becoming a sanctuary city and thinks that becoming one would help our immigrant residents tremendously.
“I think that it’s important to do it [make Arcata a sanctuary city] both to protect the immigrants in the city and to make a strong statement to them and to the world basically that we are a sanctuary city,” Meserve said. “We do have certain law enforcement provisions in effect that are the same ones that are shared by some sanctuary cities but I think it’s important to get the whole array of protections in place which includes not sharing information with ICE, not allowing our officers to be deputized to ICE, not allowing any city funds to be spent on federal enforcement of sanctuary laws or immigration laws.”
Arcata becoming a sanctuary city could help those undocumented feel more safe and comfortable with the city and the local law enforcement. Some undocumented immigrants feel unsafe to report crimes to law enforcement because they are undocumented. Kimberly Manriquez, 22-year-old Roosevelt Chapter President at HSU and senior political science major, said that Arcata becoming a sanctuary city could help immigrant HSU students feel more at peace.
“I think that if Arcata does become a sanctuary city that just is truly going to allow undocumented students that are currently attending HSU to not be so afraid to report an incident to whether that be UPD [University Police Department] or Arcata Police Department and that allows fear to go away,” Manriquez said. “I think there is a lot of fear when it comes to the police in general especially with what’s going on the last few years and I think it will bridge that gap of a community trusting their police department once again.”
The city council has the sanctuary city discussion on the agenda for April 5 which is not set in stone and could change. The members of the city council would have to have a majority vote of three out of the four members voting yes for Arcata being a sanctuary city. The city council is down a member and are actively trying to find a replacement. On April 5 the public will have time to talk and give their opinions to the council and public on what they think about the sanctuary city idea.
The city council has to discuss what they think is best for the city whether that be labeling it a sanctuary city and joining others or taking a step back and not.
“As well as protecting immigrants as well as making a public statement it’s really doing the right thing and standing strong for human rights which is something Arcata has been known for,” Meserve said.