By Steven Tavares.
Fremont became the sixth East Bay city to declare it a sanctuary city and become the fourth to do so this year. The spreading of sanctuary cities across the Alameda County has accelerated with President’s Trump’s heated rhetoric against minorities and a threat by way of executive order to punish the designation.
On the same night, however, residents in Dublin and its city officials roundly dismissed the movement.
The decision in Fremont may have been a no-brainer. Nearly half of Fremont’s residents were born in another country. The south county city with 230,000 residents is the fourth largest in the county and famously one of the very few cities boasting of a minority-majority of residents.
“This is not an issue to compromise,” said Fremont Councilmember Vinnie Bacon, who first offered the council referral last month. “This is a very moral issue. A core moral issue of how we treat our fellow human beings. We need to take a very strong stand.”
Fremont Councilmember Raj Salwan, added, “There has been a lot of fear since the election and that fear is only growing and bad stuff is happening to people all across our community,” said Salwan. “I think we need to reassure our residents that we are strong in representing them and being vigilant in affirming their rights and reaffirm Fremont’s commitment of dignity and respect.”
The Fremont Human Relations Commission had been doing previous work on the idea of sanctuary cities. A city staff report, however, recommended against using the term, which has no legal meaning, but could also serve as a marker for the federal government to target Fremont, if indeed, it makes an attempt to pull back federal funding.
John Smith, the chair of the Human Relations Commission said there is strength in numbers when it comes to resisting the federal government. “The more communities, the more cities that sign on to sanctuary city status the more difficult it will be for the federal government to do anything about it.”
Alameda County Democratic Party officials said in January that its goal is to convince every city in the county and every school district to declare sanctuary city status. Since mid-January Alameda, Emeryville and San Leandro have followed suit as have many more school districts, including Fremont. Oakland and Berkeley have long been sanctuary cities.
Meanwhile, there was a far more belligerent, almost dismissive, tone over the hill in Dublin where a packed City Council chambers included numerous people displaying signs opposing sanctuary cities. It’s a display not seen in other East Bay cities that have contemplated sanctuary city status within the past two months.
On numerous occasions, Dublin’s Mayor David Haubert and other councilmembers attempted to deflect criticism over the sanctuary city agenda item. Instead, laying blame on five residents who requested information on the subject from city staff last month. Much deference was given by several councilmembers to the Alameda County Sheriffs Department. Notably, Santa Rita Jail, the county’s largest prison, is located in Dublin.
“I feel this item is very politically-charged and many of the problems we’re dealing with are better served at the federal level, at the state level, and I feel very supportive of our current law enforcement environment,” said Haubert, who at one point, threatened to have police eject members of the audience for applauding statements made by public speakers, both for and against sanctuary cities.
While most Dublin councilmembers took pains to appear indifferent towards the sanctuary city debate, Councilmember Abe Gupta, was clear about his opinion. “We live in a very safe city. I’m very proud of Dublin,” said Gupta, who urged against any city resources being expended over the issue. Gupta also asked the roughly 30 public speakers to reveal whether or not they were Dublin residents. “I don’t think it is the purview of this council to be talking about this,” Gupta continued. “I don’t’ think it’s not the right thing to be doing and I don’t support the sanctuary city push in any way.”
The comment was greeted with wild applause and celebratory whistling, the type of which has typically been heard in other East Bay council chambers in support of sanctuary cities. Public speakers opposing the sanctuary city designation in Dublin generally said existing city and police policies were suitable, while others labeled undocumented immigrants, those who have violated laws and those who have not, as lawbreakers nonetheless for their illegal immigration status. Numerous non-minorities stated the sanctuary city designation would make Dublin less safe.
After there appeared to be no support among the Dublin City Council to act upon the informational item Tuesday night, Gupta went further, repeatedly insisting the council formally direct city staff to not perform any additional work on the sanctuary city issue. “This is not something we should talk about,” said Gupta. “I would like to see this end tonight.”