Glendale City Council reaffirms police policy, not federal immigration law

With the hope that such support would curb deportation fears in the community, the Glendale City Council approved a resolution Tuesday affirming the police chief’s recent statement that his officers are sworn to ensure Glendale’s public safety, not enforce federal immigration law.

Chief Robert Castro’s statement — which says, in part, that Glendale police do not “have the authority nor the responsibility to incarcerate or detain individuals solely based on immigration status” — comes after President Donald Trump’s Jan. 25 executive order that threatens a cut off of federal funding for so-called “sanctuary jurisdictions” that willfully violate immigration law.

Though the council approved the resolution 4-0, city officials noted that Castro’s statement has long been the policy of Glendale police, whose policy professes “protecting and serving the entire community and recognizing the dignity of all persons, regardless of their immigration status.”

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City officials noted, however, that they do have an agreement with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), which allows the federal agency to rent space in the city jail for ICE detainees.

Deputy Police Chief Carl Povilaitis, who spoke on Castro’s behalf Tuesday, said ICE rarely uses the jail, and the city makes little revenue off the agreement.

According to a city report, in 2015 and 2016, ICE paid $7,225 to Glendale for its jail, under the rate of $85 a day, per person. The contract was signed in 2007 by then-City Manager James Starbird and is indefinite, but can be canceled by either party with 60 days’ notice.

Though one resident called for Glendale to rescind the ICE agreement, City Manager Scott Ochoa warned against it because the police need to maintain good working relationships with a variety of federal agencies other than ICE, such as the FBI.

Canceling the agreement, “I think has potential for unintended consequences,” Ochoa said.

Povilaitis said the resolution will have little effect on the department’s long-standing practices.

“We will continue to do exactly what we’re doing,” he said.

Jenny Martella, a Filipino immigrant and 15-year Glendale resident, said backing Castro’s statement would help “diminish the fear of uncertainty” for many in Glendale. She said she has felt new pangs of discrimination since Trump’s inauguration and was recently told by a passing motorist to “go back to Mexico.”

“I was not afraid before. I was not worried, but now I am,” Martella said.

Glendale resident Mona Montgomery said she supports Trump’s policies, which she feels will ensure stronger border protections.

“Do you really want the United States not to have borders, which is basically what we have now?” she said. “We have to stop tolerating the intolerable.”

Councilman Zareh Sinanyan said one’s immigration status is not important for the city.

“They’re all our residents, and we care for them equally,” he said. “We’re not in the business of enforcing immigration status.”

Sinanyan did express some reservations with the resolution, calling its process rushed. He said the council seemed to be “doing a resolution for the sake of doing a resolution.”

Councilman Ara Najarian said the immigration debate will be ongoing. He suggested the city website offer resources to immigrants, such as names of attorneys.

Mayor Paula Devine said she wants the community to know the police department is not going “hunt down” the undocumented.

“We are all committed to respecting our residents,” she said. “We are a very diverse community, and we value everyone in this community.”

In other council action, the four members supported another resolution opposing discrimination against the LGBT community.

Twitter: @BradleyZint