Fremont declares itself a ‘sanctuary city’
Fremont is officially calling itself a “sanctuary city.”
Like other self-designated cities in the Bay Area, Fremont took the protective step to reassure immigrants who feel vulnerable during “uncertain times” it stands behind them. Their fears have been stoked by President Donald Trump’s campaign rhetoric and subsequent edicts calling for deportation of undocumented residents.
The City Council on March 7 adopted a resolution drafted by its Human Relations Commission that reaffirms Fremont is a compassionate city “in which all men, women and children, regardless of race, religion, national origin, gender, disability or sexual orientation, may live, learn, work and play in harmony…”
This was the first time the term “sanctuary city” was incorporated into an official city document. The commission worked it into the resolution after seven drafts and several meetings.
While not clearly defined by federal or state law, the term generally refers to cities and municipalities that “limit assistance…and cooperation with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement Agency (ICE) enforcement programs,” according to a city staff report.
Police Chief Richard Lucero said at the meeting his department has been and remains committed to equally serving the city’s diverse community.
He added that existing police policy allows his department to coordinate with immigration officials in rare cases dealing with “serious and dangerous offenders” who should not be let off the hook despite their immigrant status.
City Manager Fred Diaz confirmed nothing would change in how police handle immigration enforcement.
City staff had recommended the council drop “sanctuary city” from the resolution. It expressed concern the city could potentially lose millions of dollars in federal funding if Trump follows through on his stated intention to withhold money from “sanctuary cities.” It’s still unclear, however, whether Trump legally would have the authority to do so.
According to city reports, Fremont spent from $5.4 million to $10.2 million in federal funds over the past five years on various projects, many of them related to road maintenance and improvement.
After roughly 20 people spoke in favor of adopting the term, the council unanimously agreed to do it.
Councilman Vinnie Bacon said it’s a moral issue, not subject to compromise.
“We need to take a very strong stand and make our moral position known,” he said.
Referring to the potential loss of federal funds over the statement, Bacon said, “I would rather sit on a poorly maintained road knowing I did the right thing, as opposed to being basically paid off to do the wrong thing.”
John Smith, chairman of the Human Relations Commission, said “There are strength in numbers. The more communities, the more cities that sign on to sanctuary city status, the more difficult it will be for the federal government to do anything about it.”
Sonia Khan, a commission member who helped draft the resolution, said she was happy to see the unanimous support from speakers at the meeting and the council.
She added that “draconian, sudden and unexpected actions constantly coming down at the federal level” are creating uncertainty and fear in certain segments of Fremont’s population.
“Our biggest goal in doing this sanctuary resolution was to try to calm the fears of the most potentially vulnerable people in Fremont,” she said.
Fremont joins other cities including San Francisco, Oakland, San Leandro and San Jose in adopting “sanctuary” or “welcoming” resolutions, or similar sets of policies aimed at pushing back against Trump’s rhetoric and orders.