MV adopts ACLU 'Freedom City' policies | September 15, 2017 | Mountain View Voice | Mountain View Online |

Mountain View Voice

News - September 15, 2017

MV adopts ACLU 'Freedom City' policies

by Mark Noack

Hoping to assuage lingering fears in the immigrant community, the Mountain View City Council took a new step to reassure vulnerable residents that the city has their back. Local elected leaders on Tuesday formally signed on Mountain View to many "Freedom City" policies, committing local officials and the police to a higher set of standards for dealing with undocumented individuals.

The move is the latest in a string of actions taken by local officials in recent months to emphasize Mountain View's diversity and tolerance in direct response to the policies of the Trump administration.

In December, the city signed on as a so-called human rights city, an aspirational doctrine pledging respect and equality for all peoples. Not long afterward, Mountain View joined countywide efforts to challenge federal immigration efforts by filing lawsuits and by refusing to cooperate in most cases with Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents.

At the Tuesday, Sept. 12 meeting, council members were assured that this latest "Freedom Cities" campaign they were considering joining was more than a feel-good exercise. The policy was drafted by the American Civil Liberties Union, and it basically outlines a series of steps individual cities can take to resist the Trump administration.

Police Chief Max Bosel described the program as a good balance between the city's principles and the needs for local law enforcement to fulfill its public safety role.

"The main purpose here is to encourage the victims of crime regardless of immigration status to go to the police without fear of reprisal or deportation," he said. "But it also gives us the ability to work with federal officials in those circumstances when it provides better protection in the community."

Among the commitments, the Freedom Cities program lays down nine major "points" for how local police should interact with federal immigration agents. In basic terms, these rules are designed so local police won't facilitate deportation cases against individuals whose only crime is their immigration status.

At least seven of the nine Freedom City points were essentially similar to the police department's already established policies, Bosel said. The two areas where they didn't align were more problematic, he said.

In those areas, the ACLU wanted cities to require federal immigration agents to identify themselves and their agency upfront, especially when dealing with suspects. Bosel said this would be hard, if not impossible to enforce. Plus, he suggested that it would hinder federal agents' ability to "develop a rapport" with victims. For the most part, these policies would rarely come into play since ICE officials usually deal with local enforcement through the local jail system, which is managed by the Santa Clara County Sheriff's Office.

"We have not had a situation in which ICE agents have been in the police department wanting to talk to someone in our custody," the police chief said. "When ICE does happen to be with us, it's generally in relation to criminal investigation in which we're cooperating, such as a human trafficking case."

Bosel also suggested the city couldn't adhere to the ACLU's privacy rules since county law enforcement already makes some information publicly available on suspects in custody.

The city's role in dealing with federal immigration agent could shift in the near future, Bosel indicated. A proposed state Senate bill — SB 54 — would prohibit federal agents from taking custody of suspects from a state or county jail. That would mean ICE agents would likely revert to engaging suspects in the community, meaning they would be dealing with local law enforcement more frequently.

The City Council voted unanimously in support of the new rules. In October, the city will be revisiting this subject as they review a proposal to formally declare Mountain View as a sanctuary city.

Email Mark Noack at mnoack@mv-voice.com

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