Menlo Park council backs suits challenging Trump's 'sanctuary city' executive order

The order would withhold federal funds from 'sanctuary cities'

The Menlo Park City Council voted unanimously Tuesday night to sign on to a "friend of the court" brief supporting lawsuits by Santa Clara County and San Francisco that challenge the constitutionality of a Jan. 25 executive order by President Donald Trump.

That executive order would withhold federal funds from any jurisdiction that the U.S. attorney general decides has policies that fit the criteria of a "sanctuary jurisdiction," defined as those that "willfully violate Federal law in an attempt to shield aliens from removal from the United States."

The "friend of the court" brief – or briefs (there could be separate documents for the two suits, acknowledged City Attorney Bill McClure) – is being drafted by the San Francisco law firm Lieff Cabraser Heimann & Bernstein LLP, which is doing the work on a pro bono basis, as confirmed by an attorney at the firm.

City Attorney Bill McClure and Councilman Ray Mueller said they have given feedback to the firm about the brief.

One point they made clear to the firm, Mr. Mueller said, is that Menlo Park not be characterized as a "sanctuary city" since the city has made no decision about that. The council is scheduled to discuss that issue April 4.

The text of the brief and the number of jurisdictions signing it will not be available until the document is filed, likely on the March 22 deadline.

If the courts do not intervene, Mr. Mueller said, Santa Clara County could lose up to $1.7 billion in federal funding, or about one-fourth to one-third of its total budget, much of which goes to infrastructure and social services. Menlo Park, as a neighbor to Santa Clara County, would be adversely affected by the withholding of such funds, he said, even if Menlo Park does not declare itself a "sanctuary city."

Councilman Rich Cline said the city has effectively communicated political support for other lawsuits in the past via "friend of the court" briefs and that he believed it was time to "signal to some people we want to create a safe haven of some sort for our residents," he said. "I don't think we should make a habit of standing on the sidelines on issues like this."

Councilman Peter Ohtaki was wary of signing onto a document that he hasn't read yet, and likely won't get a chance to read before it is filed with the court, but ultimately supported it. Mr. McClure said that council members don't usually see briefs before they are filed, and that the main legal arguments of the case are already in the lawsuits.

Councilwomen Kirsten Keith and Catherine Carlton called into the meeting from Washington, D.C., and both expressed support for joining the brief.

During a public comment period, eight Menlo Park residents spoke in favor of the city joining the brief. Among them were attorney Gail Slocum, a former Menlo Park council member, who last week participated in a meeting of People Power, an ACLU-affiliated program encouraging people across the U.S. to pressure their local governments to pass nine ordinances that offer protections to residents.

"Whether or not a city becomes a sanctuary city, this (the executive order) is an attempt to infringe on cities' and counties' right of self-determination," Ms. Slocum said. "I believe it is unconstitutional."

Sammy Katta, a Menlo Park resident who is pursuing a doctoral degree in neuroscience at Stanford, said it was her first time attending a Menlo Park council meeting, but said she felt compelled to attend after going to a People Power meeting with Ms. Slocum. She said she grew up in San Mateo County and knows undocumented people who could be affected by President Trump's executive order.

Jen Mazzon, who is leading an effort by some Menlo Park residents to pass a "sanctuary city" ordinance, argued that it is not the job of cities to enforce immigration laws. That's a federal responsibility, she said, and withholding funds from cities that don't do so is unconstitutional.

She argued that communities do better when undocumented immigrants are able to report crime, seek help from the police, attend school or visit the doctor without fear of being questioned about their immigration status.

Menlo Park resident Adina Levin, who often advocates for Caltrain and transit infrastructure, echoed support for Menlo Park joining the amicus brief. She said that her father was a refugee from the Holocaust who fled Poland before the Nazis arrived. At the time, she said, there was an environment in which people were threatened to inform on their neighbors.

"I feel a personal responsibility to not be complicit in anything that looks like that," she said.


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Like this comment
Posted by Pass the popcorn
a resident of Menlo Park: The Willows
on Mar 16, 2017 at 9:18 am

MP City Council - You should totally go with the virtue signalling and become a sanctuary city. SMH.

16 people like this
Posted by LawAndOrder
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Mar 16, 2017 at 9:58 am

If you can't follow very clear, long standing Federal laws that are designed to protect American citizens then you have volunteered to suffer the consequences. Speculating on the motive of a law breaker and deciding for yourself to give them "sanctuary" isn't your call. Why not do the same thing with thieves if they say they are only stealing to support their family? We either have laws or we don't. If they are unpopular then change them, but until then... follow the law or pay the price. This entire sanctuary city thing is totally misguided and a loser in the long run.

9 people like this
Posted by Executive Orders unconstitutional?
a resident of Menlo Park: Belle Haven
on Mar 16, 2017 at 10:20 am

Are Executive Orders legal?

I was against them when Obama used them, as were all thinking Americans. In good faith, don't we have to question this president's use of something we thought was unconstitutional under Obummer?

Or is this Party over Principle?

8 people like this
Posted by Srini
a resident of another community
on Mar 16, 2017 at 12:32 pm

Executive orders are absolutely legal. If you stop harborin criminals, you wouldn't have to have these discussions.

25 people like this
Posted by kapi
a resident of Menlo Park: South of Seminary/Vintage Oaks
on Mar 16, 2017 at 12:48 pm

I challenge anyone who refers to persons without documentation as "criminals" to go and meet a few, in person. Many, many, many of them are honest hard working people who are just trying to protect and feed their families. Many are young adults or teenagers who were brought here, escaping severe economic hardship, when they were babies or toddlers. Many are relatives of residents or citizens who have not been able to wait the ridiculously long wait times to have their status approved. As usual, reality is far more complicated than gut reactions or harsh legalism tend to acknowledge. Please let's be our best selves, not our worst.

10 people like this
Posted by jackrabbit
a resident of Portola Valley: Westridge
on Mar 16, 2017 at 12:59 pm

Pathetic guilt-ridden/absolving decision. Do something worthwhile instead of condoning illegal actions. California is going 'to hell in a hand basket' owing to decisions such as the one just made by the MP Council! Cowards all; afraid to offend.
Menlo Park is no longer the idyllic little hamlet that served so many people with distinction for generations. It has evolved and grown into an unsightly cancer. 'PC' is running amok.

8 people like this
Posted by Kapi wrong
a resident of Atherton: other
on Mar 16, 2017 at 1:10 pm

I don't think anyone implied they are not human. Did they come to the US using the immigration process? Yes or No. Not a tough question. If no they are illegal.

9 people like this
Posted by Executive Orders unconstitutional?
a resident of Menlo Park: Belle Haven
on Mar 16, 2017 at 1:22 pm

It's the Asians. ;) Build a(nother) Great Wall, Mr. President!

...since 2000, unauthorized immigration from Asia has grown at rates much faster than from Mexico and Central America.

...the percentage of Mexicans those arriving has slowed since the recession. During that time, however, Asian unauthorized immigration has increased considerably. From 2000 to 2013, it increased 202 percent

Menlo - the Asian sanctuary city

Who knew? Build that wall tall enough to block planes!

(also: Indians are the fastest-growing illegal immigrant population in the US - Web Link )

21 people like this
Posted by interested
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Mar 16, 2017 at 1:38 pm

I appreciate the sensitivity around this topic given our current divisive political climate. SF/SF County and Santa Clara County filed for declaratory and injunctive relief (there is no lawsuit as has been mentioned) for violating the 10th Amendment of the Constitution. Menlo Park, and many other cities I am sure, are joining the request with strong belief that under principles of federalism set forth by the Constitution, sovereign states and counties/cities have autonomy to devote resources to local priorities - and to control the exercise of its own police powers. This is part of the distribution of power which includes the three branches of government.

While there are many strong opinions and emotions around the topic of immigration, we must not lose sight of the core tenets that form our union. It would not matter if this was a Dem or Rep president, this is a larger topic and the administration should know better.

2 people like this
Posted by Stats
a resident of Menlo Park: South of Seminary/Vintage Oaks
on Mar 16, 2017 at 9:27 pm

Thanks for bypassing the emotional issue of immigration and for focusing on the Constitutional issue being fought by Menlo Park and much of the state of California. I find it ironic that so many opponents of illegal immigration believe we should run roughshod over the Fedralistic principles of our Constitution in order to compel our police to be a "force multiplier" for removal of the undocumented.

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