The council also agreed at its April 18 meeting to set up a subcommittee composed of its two lawyers, Ms. Keith and Ray Mueller, to iron out the language of two prospective ordinances that will come before the council, likely at its May 23 meeting.
One ordinances would ban the use of city resources to collect sensitive information about a person's immigration status. The other would prohibit the police department from cooperating with federal immigration officials on "civil detainer requests."
According to a staff report, civil detainer requests can be issued by federal immigration officials to ask that a person in the custody of a local law enforcement agency be kept longer than he or she would otherwise be detained, typically up to 48 hours. Unlike criminal warrants, these requests are not issued by a judge and are not based on a finding of probable cause, according to Assistant City Attorney Leigh Prince. Local jurisdictions are not obligated by law to honor such requests, she said.
Police Commander Dave Bertini said that, to his knowlege, no such requests have been made to the Menlo Park Police Department in the last few years. The department doesn't often interact with federal immigration authorities because the city doesn't have a jail, he said.
The "elephant in the room" during the discussion, acknowledged Ms. Prince in a presentation to the council, is the question of how severely such action could affect Menlo Park's bottom line, since President Trump threatened in an executive order to withhold federal funding from so-called "sanctuary" cities.
When all federal funding for the 2016-17 fiscal year was tallied, she said, the city received about $1.1 million: about $413,000 went to community services, $700,000 to public works, and $70,000 to the police department. On average, the city gets about $665,000 in federal funds each year, a staff report said.
There is still ambiguity as to exactly how much federal funding is at stake. Ms. Prince and Mayor Keith attended oral arguments at the recent Santa Clara County v. Trump hearing, she said, and noted that while San Francisco and Santa Clara counties interpreted the threat to mean that all federal funding could be at stake, President Trump's attorney claimed only federal grants from the Department of Homeland Security and the Department of Justice would be withheld from sanctuary cities.
Using this year's budget as a reference point, that would mean that the equivalent of about $70,000 from the police grant might be at stake in future years.
Menlo Park has signed an amicus brief in support of the Santa Clara County lawsuit. Thirty-three other jurisdictions around the U.S. have asked that the executive order be halted.
City Attorney Bill McClure pointed out that what constitutes a "sanctuary city" is not well-defined. Menlo Park's current policies, plus a resolution that the council passed unanimously on Jan. 24, declaring that the city is committed to a "diverse, supportive, inclusive and protective community," may already put Menlo Park in the eyes of the federal government in terms of being a "sanctuary" jurisdiction, he said.
More than 20 people, including several kids and teens, spoke in favor of the ordinance during the public comment period of the April 18 council meeting.
Marcus Tjernlund, an eighth-grader at Hillview Middle School, said he has been part of a Spanish immersion program and has a friend whose parents are undocumented. "Don't assist deportations, please," he said.
Dorothy Fadiman, a Menlo Park documentary filmmaker, said she has interviewed hundreds of immigrants who crossed the border illegally into the U.S. "From personal experience, these people want work, they want education and they want to be treated humanely," she said.
Menlo Park residents and the Rev. Diana Gibson and the Rev. Geoff Browning expressed support for the ordinance, as did San Mateo County Poet Laureate and Menlo Park resident Lisa Rosenberg.
Also in favor of the ordinance were a teacher-student pair — Betty Achinstein and 10-year-old Desmond — who quoted from Langston Hughes' "I Dream A World." He recited:
"A world I dream where black or white,
Whatever race you be,
Will share the bounties of the earth
And every man is free."
This story contains 757 words.
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