In response to a story that first appeared in the Pasadena Weekly, the San Gabriel City Council on Tuesday voted 3-2 to nullify a controversial memorandum of understanding (MOU) that would allow police officers to work with immigration agents.
“This was done administratively, meaning without council knowledge,” said Councilman Jason Pu.
According to the Dec. 7 MOU, “the parties agree that effective enforcement of the laws related to Homeland Security investigations jurisdictions requires close cooperation and coordination between the two parties.”
The memorandum was signed by San Gabriel Police Chief Eugene Harris and Joseph Macias, special agent in charge of Homeland Security Investigations and ICE.
The agreement comes at a time when many California police departments, including Pasadena, are keeping their distance from ICE and its immigration enforcement activities. According to the MOU with San Gabriel, officers there may be forced to perform certain ICE duties, but the document does not explain what those duties are.
San Gabriel Public Information Officer Jonathan Fu said the agreement “allows us to address crimes that negatively impact the quality of life for both immigrants and non-immigrants. The [police] department does not engage in immigration checks, round-ups, or deportations,” Fu wrote in an email to the Pasadena Weekly. “We adhere to California law, which prohibits us from enforcing federal immigration policies.”
But some council members want to know exactly what that “close coordination” will be.
A spokesperson for the Los Angeles-based nonprofit Asian Americans Advancing Justice (AAAJ) said police signed the deal in secret.
“At a time when the state is setting in place protections for immigrants against Trump’s deportation machine, the San Gabriel police chief has signed a deal in secret that puts the city’s residents at higher risks of deportation,” said Nicole Gon Ochi of AAAJ. “This MOU, at first look, seems like it could violate the California Values Act. It is well documented that cities that do not assist federal immigration enforcement are safer and have stronger economies.”
The California Values Act, enacted by the Legislature in 2017, prohibits communities from using public resources to conduct mass deportations.
AAAJ members and people with several other immigrant rights advocacy groups protested outside City Hall before the meeting and then spoke against the MOU at public comment.
In a blog, Chief Harris said the purpose of the MOU was to protect local residents. However he did not state that his department would not work with ICE agents on deportation raids.
“While all HSI task forces are under the umbrella of US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (otherwise known as ICE), these task forces have separate and distinct objectives,” Harris wrote. “These HSI task forces aim to protect immigrants who have fallen victim to crimes by conducting transnational criminal investigations that protect the country — and its residents — from threats. This includes both documented and undocumented residents of our city.