The sentiments of Woodland’s “United City” resolution, passed unanimously by city council Tuesday, are in keeping with sanctuary city designations across the country.
All though at present, "sanctuary city" lacks a legal definition, Woodland’s resolution contains two of three elements normally associated with the term, said Mayor Angel Barajas. Law enforcement and other city workers won’t ask residents about their immigration status during routine activities, and city police won’t assist federal agencies with sweeps or arrests based solely on immigration violations.
The third element, which concerns the holding of undocumented immigrants in local jails, doesn’t apply to Woodland, as the county runs the jail, Barajas said.
The practices and priorities laid out in the resolution aren’t new to Woodland. However, the resolutions solidified them in writing, as well as sending a message to the immigrant community, upon which much of Woodland’s agricultural economy depends, that they are valued and respected.
“We are putting our practices into writing,” Barajas said. “Defining to all Woodland residents our position, irregardless of immigration status, they are welcome in Woodland, they will be protected and they won’t be discriminated against."
He noted the protective language in the resolution doesn't apply to criminals.
"If they violate the law, they will be arrested and prosecuted just like anyone else would. We’re not protecting undocumented criminals," he said
Immigrant labor is “an economic driver in our communities,” Barajas said. “We should appreciate them for that. A high percentage are here to work and contribute to our communities.”
Although Immigration and Customs Enforcement highlighted the criminal records of some undocumented immigrants arrested in last week’s “Safe City” operation, Woodland’s resolution notes there are benefits to public safety in promoting an atmosphere of trust between police and immigrants. One objective of the resolution is to ensure that undocumented immigrants feel safe approaching police when they are victims or witnesses to crime, and accessing other services that enhance public safety and well-being.
The phrase 'United City’ was chosen because it fits, Barajas said.
“It’s our community – (united) describes our community very well – what we’ve been doing before the Trump administration, what we’re doing now, and what we’ll be doing in the future,” he said.
About 23 percent of Woodland residents were born outside the United States, according to the most recent U.S. Census.
A bill concerning the issue is on Governor Brown’s desk now awaiting his signature. Should he sign Senate Bill 54 into law, Woodland’s resolution would be in line with it.
A document prepared by city staff concerning the resolution states: “It is noteworthy that SB 54 specifically exempts individuals who have been convicted of felonies from protection under this act, and further, imposes annual reporting requirements related to involvement by state and local law enforcement agencies in joint task forces and operations with federal law enforcement agencies.”
A larger issue, touched on in the document, is the need for comprehensive federal immigration policy reform.