'Sanctuary City' legislation introduced in Los Angeles

People enjoy the sunny afternoon on New Year's Eve in a Los Angeles park with a view of the downtown skyline, December 31, 2021. (Photo by Chris DELMAS / AFP) 

While Los Angeles currently has policies aimed at protecting the rights of immigrants, some city officials feel this just isn't enough and are looking to take things a step further by introducing legislation that would officially make Los Angeles a "sanctuary city."

According to the motion introduced Tuesday by Council members Eunisses Hernandez, Hugo Soto-Martinez and Nithya Raman, city staff would be directed to draft an ordinance that would codify a 2017 directive issued by then-Mayor Eric Garcetti that prohibits any city resources, property or personnel from being utilized for any federal immigration enforcement.

"These policies are subject to change under future administrations and have yet to be enshrined as permanent protections for Los Angeles immigrants," the legislation reads.

The council previously passed a symbolic resolution declaring Los Angeles a "City of Sanctuary," but the motion put forth Tuesday would codify sanctuary policies into municipal law.

PREVIOUS COVERAGE: City Council passes resolution declaring LA 'City of Sanctuary' for immigrants

"Los Angeles is a city of immigrants. As the daughter of two Mexican immigrants myself, I know how important and overdue these protections are to our community members," said Council member Hernandez. "Symbolic gestures are not enough. Internal policies that can be changed from one day to the next are not enough. Our undocumented residents deserve safety and security. It is long past time for Los Angeles to permanently codify protections for our undocumented community members into City law."

Specifically, the motion would also direct the city to prohibit inquiring about or collecting information about an individual's immigration status; engaging in investigation or enforcement related to an individual's immigration status; providing immigration authorities access to any non-public areas, including jails, without a valid search or arrest warrant; and providing access to city databases or any individual's personal information or other data to federal immigration authorities.

A composite of numerous flags from across the world is held by immigrant reform supporters as they march on Hollywood Boulevard in support of the legalization of millions of undocumented immigrants living in the United States June 24, 2007 in Los Ang

"It is long overdue for Los Angeles to step up and pass a true Sanctuary City policy," said Shiu-Ming Cheer, Deputy Director of Programs & Campaigns, California Immigrant Policy Center. "The past few years have taught us that promises don't protect communities when the balance of power shifts.The City must use the power it has now to stand up for migrants and ensure that no City resources are ever used for federal immigration enforcement."

More than 1 out of 3 people who live in Los Angeles are immigrants, Council member Soto-Martinez said.

The Los Angeles Police Department has prohibited its officers from getting involved in immigration enforcement since Special Order 40 was issued in 1979.  Its policies prohibit contact with individuals based solely on their immigration status and does not give immigration agents access to its jails or inmates unless they have a federal warrant. Because of those policies, Los Angeles is often referred to as a sanctuary city, though it has never officially embraced the term as other cities have, including San Francisco and Santa Ana.

City News Service contributed to this report.