The Los Angeles City Council unanimously approved a resolution Friday declaring Los Angeles a "city of sanctuary'' for immigrants, although it is non-binding and does not change any city laws.
The resolution was passed by the Immigrant Affairs, Civil Rights, & Equity Committee more than a year ago and was introduced by City Councilman Gil Cedillo in September 2017 with Council President Herb Wesson.
Cedillo said the long delay in moving the resolution forward was attributable to a desire to approve a symbolic "City of Sanctuary" declaration concurrently with a proposed Civil and Human Rights Ordinance.
Under that measure, which was approved Thursday by the Immigrant Affairs, Civil Rights and Equity Committee, a commission would be created to investigate violations of residents' civil rights, with the power to levy fines of up to $125,000 per standard violation and cumulative penalties of up to $250,000 per violation as a result of violent or harassing acts.
While there is no legal definition of a sanctuary city, it generally applies to municipalities that limit cooperation with federal authorities on immigration enforcement. Embracing the term has become a way for cities to defy President Donald Trump, who has tried to cut off some federal funding to sanctuary cities.
"We declare, for all those who have been under attack in this Trump era, that this city, in this day, in this time, will be a city of sanctuary," Cedillo said. "It will be a place where people will know that they will be judged by the content of their character and not by the color of their skin, and not by who they choose to love, and not by when they got here. They will be judged by their contributions to our city."
The Los Angeles Police Department has had a longstanding policy of not initiating contact with individuals based solely on their immigration status and does not give immigration agents access to its jails or inmates unless they have a federal warrant. Because of those policies, Los Angeles is often referred to as a sanctuary city, though it has never officially embraced the term as other cities have, including San Francisco and Santa Ana.
The resolution reaffirms the city's position that enforcement of federal immigration law is a function solely delegated to the U.S Congress by the U.S. Constitution, and any local resources used to enforce federal immigration law would be unconstitutional. It also says that Los Angeles is a "city of sanctuary, protecting the human rights of all our residents."