A Sanctuary To Threaten Our Sanctuary

By Elisabeth Johnson

On March 14, 2017, in a 3-2 vote, the Malibu City Council declared Malibu a sanctuary city. Martin Sheen initially proposed the idea to the City Council in December. The term sanctuary city is believed by most to mean that the city will not aid the federal government with the enforcement of immigration laws. However, the concept of a sanctuary city is often misunderstood. That misconception is due in part to the modern rhetoric associated with sanctuary cities, but also the lack of underlying knowledge about the processes of immigration and criminal law. The implica- tions of the city’s recent declaration are impracticable and pose legal, economic, and environmental complications. Furthermore, many of those implications are speci c to Malibu’s unique locality and culture. While the word sanctuary is de ned as a place of refuge or safety, it is also de ned as an oasis or nature preserve. Thus, we as citizens must balance the effect that the sanctuary city declaration has on undocumented persons against those that affect our home and environment . . . our sanctuary.

In order to understand the legal implications of this declaration, it is important to understand the process that occurs when a city becomes a sanctuary. Local law enforcement is critical in assisting with federal immigration laws. However, to a certain degree, compliance at the local lev- el is not mandatory. When an individual is stopped and arrested by a city law enforcement of cer, that arrested individual is booked into a county jail. At the county jail, the individual’s ngerprints and background information are sent to the FBI who then sends the information to Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). Federal law requires the sharing of this information between local law enforcement and the federal government. If the information submitted to ICE leads them to nd that the individual is undocumented, ICE requires the county jail to hold that person for an additional forty-eight hours. During this period, ICE will obtain a warrant and begin deportation proceedings. President Trump’s executive order allows ICE to begin the deportation process sooner. However, this is not required according to the Department of Homeland Security because it could be a violation of a person’s fourth amendment rights.

Thus, the element of choice comes into play at the local level. A county is permitted to choose whether to comply with President Trump’s expe- dited deportation process. However, the sharing of an individual’s ngerprints and information with ICE and the forty-eight hour holding period are mandated by federal law and binding on individual localities. Because of this process, Malibu’s declaration of itself as a sanctuary city will likely have no effect on undocumented persons because the actual decision of whether to assist the federal government is the responsibility of the county jail and only follows a legal stop for a purpose unrelated to an individual’s citizenship status and comes after the forty-eight hour holding period. Malibu does not have a city police force, but is serviced by the Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department, Lost Hills Station #1010 on Agoura Road. However, even if Malibu had its own police force, the decision to comply with President Trump’s expedited deportation proceed- ings would begin at the county level with the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department. It is the responsibility of the LA County Sheriff, an elected of cial, to determine whether the county will comply with President Trump’s expedited deportation process. It is also unlikely that the Lost Hills Sheriff’s Department would inconsistently apply federal law across its jurisdiction. Even if the city’s declaration had legal footing, the Lost Hills Sheriff’s Department would not likely apply one law in Malibu and another in surrounding communities out of fairness to those that it services. President Trump has threatened to pull federal funding from cities that declare themselves sanctuary cities. In fact, on Monday, March 21, President Trump published a list of 118 sanctuary localities that refused to comply with the forty-eight hour holding process, which is mandat- ed by federal law. President Trump has full legal authority to withhold funding under the Supreme Court case, South Dakota v. Dole.[1] While proponents of the sanctuary city argue that Malibu does not receive enough funding from the federal government for this to be an issue, it is poor stewardship to disregard these funds as influential in our community, speci cally those regarding the environment. While it may be true that Mal- ibu does not need any federal funding to survive, more could be accomplished if federal funding was combined with local resources, especially regarding environmental issues. Thus, writing off the aid Malibu receives from the federal government as irrelevant is misguided. It should also be noted that President’s Trump’s ban on federal funding to sanctuary cities may prevent Malibu from being eligible for federal funding in the fu- ture, which would have a drastic effect if the city’s nancial position changes at any point. Furthermore, President Trump’s ban on federal funding to sanctuary cities would make Malibu ineligible for Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) funding in the event of re, flood, or other natural disaster, which makes the sanctuary city declaration increasingly irresponsible. On Monday, March 27, Attorney General Jeff Sessions reinforced President Trump’s promise, adding that sanctuary cities should be punished and may be denied Justice Department grants for state and local law enforcement.

Making Malibu a sanctuary city may have been done as an act of solidarity, however, the negative effects will be widespread. First and foremost, it is not always understood that a sanctuary city only affects an undocumented person after a legal stop and after mandatory sharing of informa- tion with the FBI. This also indicates that making a city a sanctuary has less effect on the children of undocumented persons than common rhet- oric might lead one to think. This lack of knowledge will attract undocumented persons to Malibu under the impression that they will be provided safe harbor, when in reality, this is not the case. That is, when undocumented residents recognize that Malibu is a sanctuary city, many are under the assumption that it means they will not be arrested or that their information will not be shared with the federal government at all. However, any person violating a United States or California law may be stopped and arrested and that person’s information will automatically be sent to the FBI. This misconception is extremely detrimental because as population increases in general, crime rates will also increase. The same will happen when the population of undocumented persons increases, even if temporarily. This is especially problematic in Malibu, because one source indi- cates that Lost Hills Sheriff’s Department may be underperforming on its contract with the city. Furthermore, the city is also without an Emergen- cy Services Coordinator. This is important because the Emergency Services Coordinator is “is responsible for maintenance and implementation of the City’s Emergency Operations Plan.”[2] This position has been vacant since the beginning of the year. Both of these issues pose serious threats to our community’s safety, especially when paired with an increase in population.

Making Malibu a sanctuary city may have been done as an act of solidarity, however, the negative effects will be widespread.

The city’s misconception of the implications of a sanctuary city disguised as an act of solidarity have a direct negative impact on Malibu voters. However, the negative impact spreads to other areas of the community such as residents that live in unincorporated Malibu, temporary resi- dents who own vacation homes, and students and staff of Pepperdine University. Thus, this decision will flow down to other members of our community who facilitate our economy by spending money in our city, whose children attend our schools, and who make other positive contri- butions to our community. This is especially an injustice to Pepperdine students and faculty because Pepperdine is not within the city’s juris- diction and residents of Pepperdine’s campus were not allowed to vote for the members of city council, yet city council members’ leadership is directly affecting and endangering Pepperdine students and residents, and members of the Malibu community in general. Thus, this detrimen- tal act of solidarity was not in the best interest of the community in its entirety.

In fact, many Malibu residents are unhappy with the decision. Within seventy-two hours of the decision, over 100 residents contacted Coun- cilman Jefferson Wagner to voice their concerns. Wagner estimates that approximately 80-90 percent of those that contacted him were not in favor of the sanctuary city. Within three days of the vote, Wagner also received interview requests from three separate news agencies. Wagner interviewed with two of the three news agencies. Residents have also contacted Councilman Rick Mullen to express their dissatisfaction. This is not a party-line issue, but an issue that will affect everyone in our community regarding environmental, public safety, educational, and traf c issues, all of which were promised to be issues of immediate importance during the recent election.

A local government’s primary responsibility is to serve the needs of its local community rst and protect the safety and well-being of the constituents in its jurisdiction. A local government’s job is not to make symbolic gestures on poorly-researched federal issues. Public service at the local level means using leadership, respect for the law, and good stewardship to serve members of one’s community. It does not mean making irrelevant federal party-line issues a part of local law at the expense of wasting time on more pressing local issues. James Madison said, “We are right to take alarm at the rst experiment of our liberties.” In this instance, as voting citizens and members of the community,
we are right to take alarm at the fact that some of our city council members have chosen to make a decision that is not in the best interest of our citizens, and have also chosen to prioritize a federal issue with little legal effect over more pressing local issues for which they are directly responsible.

[1] South Dakota v. Dole, 483 U.S. 203, (1987). [2] City of Malibu Website

Cece Woods

The Current Report Editor in Chief Cece Woods started The Local Malibu, an activism based platform in 2014. The publication was instrumental in the success of pro-preservation ballot measures and seating five top vote-getters in the Malibu City Council elections.

During the summer of 2018, Woods exposed the two-year law enforcement cover-up in the Malibu Creek State Park Shootings, and a few short months later provided the most comprehensive local news coverage during the Woolsey Fire attracting over one million hits across her social media platforms.

Since 2020, Woods was the only journalist reporting on the on-going public corruption involving former L.A. Metro CEO Phil Washington. Woods worked with Political Corruption expert Adam Loew, DC Watchdog organizations and leaders in the Capitol exposing Washington which ultimately led to the withdrawal of his nomination to head the FAA.

Woods also founded Malibu based 90265 Magazine and Cali Mag devoted to the authentic southern California lifestyle.

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