Los Angeles, a “sanctuary city” for illegal immigrants will remain that way for now, after a judge ruled to uphold Special Order 40 in a downtown courtroom last Wednesday. Members of the American Civil Liberties Union applauded the decision, which prevents law enforcement officers from inquiring about the immigration status of an individual and from contacting federal immigration officials about an individual’s immigration status. The ruling comes in the midst of controversy surrounding the law, sparked by the violent killing of 17-year-old Jamiel Shaw.
The Crenshaw High School athlete was gunned down earlier this year by undocumented gang member Pedro Espinoza, according to Los Angeles police. Shaw’s family, along with other community members and L.A. mayoral hopeful Walter Moore are pushing Jamiel’s Law, an amendment to Special Order 40, which would allow officers to investigate possible violations of federal immigration laws. The group has been critical of L.A. city officials’ response to the situation.
“[Villaraigosa’s] silence on Jamiel’s Law is deafening,” said Moore earlier this year.
“ He came to Jamiel’s funeral for a ‘photo op,’ but he won’t come to the aid of Jamiel’s family now that they’re trying to spare other families the terrible loss they themselves have suffered. Villaraigosa could deny ‘sanctuary city’ protection to gang members with the stroke of a pen. “Special Order 40 is a memo, not a law. The Mayor has to power to amend it or even abolish it by issuing a simple Executive Directive. He refuses to use that power. He insists on making our city a sanctuary for gangs…”
But ACLU members insist that Special Order 40 is vital to the safety of Los Angeles residents. Without it, they said, the ability to assist victims of domestic violence, for example, would be “significantly hampered.”
“The balance between the right of immigrants to equal protection and the duty of Los Angeles police officers to keep communities safe was upheld today,” said ACLU attorney, Hector Villarga at press conference after Wednesday’s ruling.
“Immigrants in Los Angeles now are saved from having to choose between their personal safety and their future.”
The order allows community members- of whom 40 percent are undocumented- to report crimes without fear that a tip will lead to deportation, they said.
However, said Moore, “Sanctuary laws are a serious impediment to stemming gang violence and other crime. These gangs [commit] crimes like extortion and drug-running: they also engage in ‘ethnic cleansing.’ On October 30, 2007, the U.S. Attorney in Los Angeles announced he had indicted members of the Florencia 13, a street gang, for ‘shootings of African-Americans in neighborhoods the gang claimed to control…’”
Two years ago L.A. resident Harold Sturgeon filed a lawsuit against the city to stop the spending of public money to enforce the policy, which he pointed to as illegal. However, Judge Rolf M. Treu on Wednesday, June 25, said that Sturgeon had not proved that Special Order 40 violates federal law.