LA Is Set To Officially Be A Sanctuary City, But That Won't Officially Change Anything

Demonstrators take part in a "Families Belong Together March" in downtown Los Angeles on June 14, 2018. (Robyn Beck/AFP/Getty Images)

On Friday, the Los Angeles City Council approved a resolution formally declaring L.A. "a City of Sanctuary, protecting the human rights of all our residents."

The vote before the full council came more than two years after the resolution was first introduced by councilmembers Gil Cedillo and Herb Wesson.

This declaration is not legally binding, meaning it does not create or amend any existing city laws or policies concerning immigration. So, it's essentially a symbolic welcome sign, though it could "open the door for additional immigrant friendly policies," according to Fredy Ceja, a spokesman from Cedillo's office.

The District 1 councilman added that while it serves only as a symbol, the sanctuary city label "does set the tone for the way we want our residents to be treated, with dignity and respect regardless of their immigration status."

"The resolution is extremely significant at a time when ICE has raided our communities and instilled fear in the lives of our residents," Cedillo said in a statement to LAist. "Not only are we saying Los Angeles is a city that welcomes all who wish to come here in search of a better life, we are also making a political statement about the types of laws and protections we will support so that all Angelenos can fully realize their potential."

The approved resolution now awaits a signature from Mayor Eric Garcetti, who in the past has been unclear about his stance on L.A. as a sanctuary city, at one point telling NPR he was "not sure what one is."

L.A.'s existing policies aimed at detangling from federal immigration action include:

  • Special Order 40, an LAPD directive that prohibits police officers from questioning or arrested people based on their immigration status
  • Mayor's Executive Directive 20, which provides all Angelenos equal access to city services and protects personal data from federal immigration officials, among other things
  • Policies barring city police from partnering with ICE to conduct immigration enforcement or holding individuals in jail past their eligible release date at the request of ICE agents

By slapping on that "sanctuary city" name tag, L.A. could find itself wrapped in the legal war raging between cities and President Donald Trump's administration.

Last January, the president issued an executive order to withhold federal funding from cities that don't cooperate with his ramped up immigration enforcement efforts. Parts of the order were later struck down as unconstitutional in federal court.

"The Trump Administration has empowered (L.A.) to double down on its efforts to protect all Angelenos, regardless of immigration status," Ceja said in a press release Thursday.