By Steven Tavares.
BART trains already travel through three major Bay Area sanctuary cities–Oakland, San Francisco, and Berkeley. Now, the transit authority, itself, may move to become a sanctuary for undocumented immigrants using its trains.
BART Board Directors Nick Josefowitz and Lateefah Simon proposed Thursday that the transit system seek sanctuary status for its riders. The proposal is due to be scheduled at the board’s next committee meeting, said BART Board President Rebecca Saltzman.
“Over 500K undocumented immigrants live in the Bay Area & many use #BART to get to their jobs, schools, places of worship & community,” Simon tweeted Thursday. “We will be safer on #BART if law enforcement is focused on real security issues & not enforcing federal immigration laws on riders.”
Simon represents BART stations in Oakland, Berkeley and El Cerrito. Josefowitz represents San Francisco stations from Balboa Park to Embarcadero.
During the meeting, several public speakers charged BART Police with coordinating the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).
BART General Manager Grace Crunican said, while the policy exists, it has not been enforced by BART during her tenure. “We haven’t contacted ICE in a long time,” said Crunican.
For common transit-related criminal offenses such as fare evasion, BART Police typically arrests the suspect and transports them to the local law enforcement jurisdiction, said a BART Police representative, “and we’re finished with them.”
Several public speakers describing themselves as undocumented immigrants praised the BART Board’s interest in becoming a sanctuary agency. Simon thanked law enforcement in the building for pledging not to a question those voluntarily describing their immigration status during the meeting. “I hope we continue to create a safe space for all of our riders,” said Simon.