Last night, the Berkeley City Council unanimously approved a historic measure ending Berkeley’s cooperation with federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials, mere weeks after enacting groundbreaking reforms protecting privacy and dissent in the face of federally-coordinated domestic surveillance and intelligence collection efforts.
Responding to sustained pressure from the Coalition for a Safe Berkeley, the City Council declared last night that:
“The Berkeley Police Department will follow its normal rules and procedures irrespective of the immigration status with whom it comes into contact. The Berkeley Police Department will not honor requests by the United States Immigration and Customs Enforcement, ICE, to detain a Berkeley jail inmate for suspected violations of the federal civil immigration law.”
The decision resulted from sustained controversy in Berkeley, and across the nation, over federal policy initiatives that co-opt local police and distract them from their core public safety mission, such as the Secure Communities Initiative (S-Comm).
Almost exactly one year ago, Santa Clara County rejected S-comm, implementing a policy that severely restricted the Santa Clara Sheriff’s compliance with detainer requests. After mobilizing for the past two years to champion broad law enforcement reforms to protect civil rights undermined by federal programs, the Coalition for a Safe Berkeley (covered by Bay Area media sources including the SF Bay Guardian, Berkeley Daily Planet, ABC News, and CBS News) has secured the support of its City Council on a series of important policy reforms.
The City Council enacted many of the Coalition’s proposed reforms, on September 18, particularly relating to intelligence collection by the Berkeley Police Department. Those reforms also addressed: (1) dissemination of intelligence information to the Northern California regional fusion center (mere weeks before the US Senate released a report sharply critical of fusion centers for wasteful spending and abuses of constitutional rights), (2) responses to mutual aid requests from nearby police agencies when suppressing First Amendment activity (such as the crackdown on Occupy Oakland nearly exactly a year ago), and (3) transparency into proposed purchases of military equipment (like an armored personnel carrier whose attempted purchase by the police department the Coalition eventually blocked).
While the Council supported many of the Coalition’s reform proposals in September, it continued the vote on the Coalition’s proposed civil detainer policy (responding to S-Comm) until this week’s Council meeting. In the wake of the Coalition’s further victory last night, Manuel De Paz from East Bay Sanctuary Covenant said:
“This…policy…protects the rights of immigrants and follows the Constitution….[it] gives faith and hope nationwide to those who struggle day by day for social justice. When a coalition like the Coalition for a Safe Berkeley finds common ground, values, and puts aside the differences and personal interests, and persists, everything can be achieved and there’s no battle that can’t be won.”