San José Council to Discuss Safe Houses to Prevent Deportations under President Donald Trump

San José Inside  January 9, 2017

In an unprecedented step to protect immigrant communities, San José’s City Council will consider assisting churches to create safe houses to protect people from being deported.

In a memo co-authored Friday by Mayor Sam Liccardo and council members Raul Peralez, Sergio Jimenez, Magdalena Carrasco and Sylvia Arenas, the missive lays out discussion points to provide legal assistance to immigrant communities, broaden emergency communication networks and create partnerships with faith-based organizations. A rubric attached to the memo mentions the need to identify sanctuaries to “shelter undocumented from deportation at local institutions,” which would most likely require revisions to city building codes and permits due to capacity restrictions.

Such actions are usually taken due to inclement weather—not an incoming commander in chief. But less than two weeks before Donald Trump is sworn in as the next president of the United States, anxiety in immigrant communities is higher than it’s been in decades, and the council intends to confront these issues with its first meeting of the calendar year.

“Thousands of San José residents face the threat of family separation as a result of potential changes in immigration enforcement by the new Administration,” the council memo states. “Law-abiding immigrants who play a crucial role in our workforce and community, thus, may arbitrarily be subject to deportation. We appreciate the thoughtful work of many local community leaders and stakeholders who have begun to outline critical responses to that threat … and can provide a starting point for strategic planning.”

Last month, Mayor Liccardo and San Jose Police Chief Eddie Garcia held a press conference reiterating the city’s position that it will not use any resources to assist federal immigration enforcement. Rather, the city intends to expand services provided by the Office of Immigrant Affairs.

President-elect Trump has repeatedly called for the deportation of all undocumented immigrants, including the removal of all undocumented children from the country. He also has endorsed deportation forces that go door to door to take people into custody, stoking fears of a fascist-like police squad.

In their memo Friday, city officials suggested that a coordinated response could be created through one-time funding via the mid-year budget process, which occurs in February.

“Our immediate priority is to strengthen and support the existing social infrastructure for supporting our immigrant communities,” the memo reads. “We can achieve great success by broadly disseminating critical information through a coordinated communications campaign, building capacity and streamlining legal defense for families and youth and supporting our faith based organizations. Empowering people with information can enable them to better understand their rights, calm their anxieties, and avoid counterproductive, and often dangerous, behavior prompted by uncertainty.”

One strategy could include working with local school districts to “help families develop safety plans and streamline the dissemination of critical information including: ‘Know Your Rights’ classes, potential remedies available to families and unaccompanied youth such as U-visa, VAWA, Special Immigrant Juvenile Status (SIJS) or asylum.”

City officials will also discuss methods to raise awareness of notario fraud in immigrant communities.

Also on the San Jose City Council agenda for January 10, 2017:

  • The council will consider rezoning and a conditional use permit for the Villas on the Park project, which intends to provide housing to homeless people in a converted hotel at 278 N. 2nd St.
  • One item that does not appear on this week’s council agenda is the appointment of the next vice mayor, which by city code is required to take place at the second meeting of the year. While there has been no official determination, betting lines—yes, the dorkiest of betting lines—have Magdalena Carrasco getting the nod, as she would be a natural swing vote to help Mayor Liccardo secure a 6-5 majority on contentious issues.