San Jacinto City Council will no longer weigh ‘sanctuary city’ question

The question whether or not San Jacinto should declare itself a “sanctuary city” and each councilmembers’ stand on the issue, came up once again during the Tuesday, Dec. 19, council meeting.

The burning issue on immigration enforcement, fostered by California Gov. Jerry Brown’s declaration the state is a “sanctuary state,” reached the San Jacinto Council for the second time. The question brought before the council earlier this year was tabled. This time, even with a motion by Councilman Alonzo Ledezma asking the council to declare the city a sanctuary city made and quickly withdrawn, the council closed the discussion, stating the city will remain what they call a “non-sanctuary city.”

The request to put the issue on the Tuesday council came initially from Councilman Andrew Kotyuk who said each of the council members should state their view on the city becoming a sanctuary city or not and to clarify the history of the city.

The council heard from a number of residents who asked to declare San Jacinto a sanctuary city, in order to take the fear away from many of those living in the city who believe federal immigration officers will be out in force looking for them. One resident commented in Spanish, “They are afraid to come out the front door because immigration will be there to arrest them.”

Councilman Scott Miller called San Jacinto Police Chief John Salisbury to the podium to state what the department’s enforcement policy on immigrations is.

“The sheriff’s department and the San Jacinto Police Department do not enforce federal immigration law in our field operations,” Salisbury said. In response to Miller’s question, do the local police go around the city looking for undocumented people, Salisbury said, “No, we don’t.”

Miller further questioned Salisbury about the department’s cooperation with the federal immigration officers, if the city did become a sanctuary city.

“I don’t think that would drive sheriff’s policy in regard to our cooperation with federal immigration authorities,” Salisbury said.

Miller said any action on federal immigration law the city took “would not change anything at all. A resolution would do nothing.”

Mayor Crystal Ruiz said she was reluctant to even put the discussion on the agenda because as far as she believed, any action in declaring San Jacinto a sanctuary city would have no effect on Gov. Brown’s declaration the entire state is a “sanctuary state.”

“This was not my choice to put this on the agenda,” Ruiz said. “I fought very hard to keep this off the agenda because I don’t think that this is place to discuss on something that has already come down from the governor.

“The governor signed a law saying we are a sanctuary state,” Ruiz said. “The governor said we are going to do marijuana. You can’t choose which one you like and which one you don’t. The whole point of this to me is motivated by politics. And frankly, I know that technically we are politicians up here, but this in not what we should be doing in this city right now. This not what we should be doing from this dais. This to me is an absolute atrocity that we are sitting here discussing this policy when nothing we say or do matters. We aren’t going to affect the way the sheriff does their job. Thank God.”

She suggested that if the council were to make a resolution, it should be about gang violence or other crimes.

“Let’s take a stand on what really matters here,” she said.

Kotyuk has announced he will be running for a state assembly seat, and Miller and Ledezma are up for council re-election in November 2018.

The meeting did bring about discussions from the council who recalled that in a sense they were all immigrants and proud to be Americans. Ledezma described how hard it was to become a U.S. citizen, but now he is proud to be an American. Kotyuk said he was married to a Hispanic woman and loves her and their children. Ruiz is married to a Hispanic man. Councilman Utz, who was not present at the Tuesday meeting, mentioned at an earlier meeting how members his family were originally immigrants.

“We are all immigrants,” Miller said.

At the conclusion of the discussion, the council unanimously agreed that they would have no more discussions or actions on the city becoming a sanctuary city. City Manager Rob Johnson said the city in essence is, and has always been, a “non-sanctuary city.”

During the meeting, it was noted that the San Jacinto School Unified District has declared the district a “safe haven” and is protecting each of the students’ records as confidential and that the children of immigrant families cannot be punished by immigration officials.

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