Sanctuary City: A Closer Look at the Effects of Executive Order No. 13768 to the Public Safety of the City of Los Angeles

*This blog post is part two of a four-part blog series dedicated to the topic of sanctuary cities.

 

City of Los Angeles City Hall

City of Los Angeles City Hall, Los Angeles, California

In part one of this blog series, discussion centered on the meaning, history, and significance of sanctuary cities in the United States. The account is in consideration of the Executive Order: Enhancing Public Safety in the Interior of the United States (Executive Order No. 13768) signed by President Donald J. Trump in January 2017, which targets sanctuary cities. Yet, what does this executive order mean for the City of Los Angeles? What would be the public safety consequences in Los Angeles if the executive order is implemented?

With a population of more than four million people, Los Angeles is the second most populous city in the nation after New York City. There are people from approximately 140 countries that call this metropolis their home and at least 185 languages are spoken. Furthermore, according to a study from the Pew Research Center, it is estimated that there are 375,000 undocumented immigrants residing in the City of Los Angeles—this number increases to one million for the Los Angeles metro area. Thus, it is one of the most diverse cities in the United States.

In 1979, aware of the changing demographics that were taking place in Los Angeles, the Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) adopted Special Order 40. The Special Order prohibits police officers from initiating contact with a person with the purpose of determining his or her immigration status. Special Order 40 was adopted to encourage undocumented immigrants to report crimes to the police without the fear of deportation—this as a mechanism to ensure the public safety of all Angelenos regardless of one’s legal status in the country. However, the Special Order does not protect undocumented immigrants who have been arrested for multiple misdemeanor offenses, a high-grade misdemeanor or a felony offense, or have been arrested for the same offense a second time.

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Mayor Eric Garcetti showing solidarity with walk-ins at the Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights (CHIRLA), Los Angeles, California

Following the November 2016 presidential elections, Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti and LAPD Chief Charlie Beck expressed their continued commitment to uphold Special Order 40 and have Los Angeles be a safe place for everyone. In fact, in March 2017, Garcetti signed Executive Directive 20. The executive directive includes language in which it orders the City’s Fire Department, Airport Police, and Port Police to adopt policies and procedures that are consistent with LAPD’s existing immigration enforcement policies and procedures—this includes Special Order 40.

However, the executive order is an obstacle in ensuring the public safety of places like Los Angeles. This policy includes language that threatens to cut federal funding from cities that do not cooperate with federal immigration authorities by reporting undocumented immigrants, even if these individuals have not committed serious or repeated offenses. The executive order claims that sanctuary cities willfully violate federal law by protecting undocumented immigrants and has resulted in immeasurable harm to the people of the United States and the country. Therefore, the policy authorizes Attorney General Jefferson Beauregard Sessions III (Jeff Sessions) and Secretary of Homeland Security John Francis Kelly to take away federal funding from sanctuary cities, except as deemed necessary for law enforcement purposes. Given the ambiguity of the term “sanctuary city,” Garcetti and Beck—along with other mayors and law enforcement officials—have requested John F. Kelly to provide a fixed definition of what the federal government considers to be a sanctuary city.

Despite the claims made by President Trump, several studies have concluded that there is no correlation between crime rates and the levels of immigration. Both census-data driven studies and macro-level studies indicate that immigrants are less likely to commit crimes than the native-born population. In fact, some of these studies have found that a higher immigration rate contributed to a decline in certain types of crimes. One explanation for the lower criminality rates is that immigrants who commit crimes can be deported.

Mayor Eric Garcetti

Mayor Garcetti announcing the new expansion of Community Safety Partnership in South Los Angeles, California

Although the executive order has not yet been fully implemented, the policy is already impacting cities like Los Angeles. Chief Beck recently indicated that there has been a drop among Latino Angelenos that are reporting domestic violence and sexual assault. Sex assault reports are down 25-percent and domestic violence claims are down 10-percent year-to-date. Beck attributes the decrease to fears of deportation from the Latino immigrant community.

President Trump argues that by signing this executive order, the public safety of our communities will be improved. However, in Los Angeles the opposite effect seems to be taking place, as there is already a decrease in reports of domestic violence and sexual assault among Latino Angelenos. Furthermore, such policies only jeopardize the existing relationship between the immigrant community and local police authorities, as it creates a climate of distrust from immigrants towards police officials. What have been the public safety benefits of declaring your community a sanctuary city? What alternative policies and practices could be adopted to improve the public safety of our communities?

*It should be noted that Mayor Eric Garcetti has refused to use the term “sanctuary city” when referring to the City of Los Angeles. He has indicated that he still is not sure what a sanctuary city is.

Credits: Images and data linked to sources.

Sanctuary City: The Meaning, History, and Significance of Adopting These Protective Policies

*This blog post is part one of a four-part blog series dedicated to the topic of sanctuary cities.

Barstow Presbytarian Church, Barstow, Texas

Presbyterian Church, Barstow, Texas

In January 25, 2017, President Donald John Trump signed the Executive Order: Enhancing Public Safety in the Interior of the United States. The order contains a clause that targets sanctuary cities in the United States. Arguing national security concerns, President Trump’s executive order seeks to cut billions of dollars in federal funding from sanctuary cities, counties, and states that harbor undocumented immigrants. If implemented, the order would negatively impact sanctuary places across the nation.

What is a sanctuary city? While there is no single definition for a “sanctuary city,” it usually refers to cities, counties, and states that have adopted policies that limit their cooperation or involvement with federal immigration authorities. In general, this means that these places decline most requests to detain, pursue, or report undocumented immigrants who have had contact with local law enforcement. However, these protective policies do not safeguard immigrants who commit serious or violent crimes.

The idea of sanctuary cities dates to the early 1980s. At the time, Central Americans were fleeing the civil war and violence in countries like El Salvador and Guatemala. Yet, the United States government initially refused to grant them refugee status. In response, churches decided to provide sanctuary to these immigrants.

San Francisco City Hall

San Francisco City Hall, San Francisco, California

The concept was later adopted by communities whose local officials viewed the federal immigration policies as harsh towards individuals who were arrested for minor, non-violent crimes. Furthermore, both local police and politicians have indicated that not collaborating with immigration authorities encourage immigrants to report crimes to local authorities and make communities safer. This concern is reiterated in a report published in May 2013 by the University of Illinois at Chicago. The report’s findings reveal that when local authorities collaborate with federal immigration officials, it becomes more difficult to investigate crimes because victims or witnesses that are undocumented immigrants are less likely to come forward since they are afraid of being detained and deported.

There is not an exact figure as to the number of sanctuary cities and counties in the United States. However, according to data collected from the Immigrant Legal Resource Center, there are 635 counties where the local police does not currently collaborate with requests from the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agency to hold immigrants in detention (ICE detainers) for additional time.

Despite the president’s threat to withhold federal funding, mayors and police chiefs from major cities like Chicago, Los Angeles, New York, and San Francisco have reaffirmed their commitment to uphold sanctuary polices. Moreover, they have expressed their opposition to the executive order. Local government officials from these cities argue that cutting federal funding from sanctuary cities would generate adverse effects to the economy, public safety, and social fabric of these communities.

Yet, some of the claims made by opponents of sanctuary cities are:

  • Sanctuary cities encourage undocumented immigration;
  • Sanctuary cities compromise public safety because it results in crimes that could have been avoided through deportation; and,
  • Sanctuary cities provide haven for drug cartels, gangs, and terrorist cells—since their activities are less likely to be detected and reported by law enforcement.
Local Police Assistance with Deportations

Local Police Assistance with Deportations by State, United States. Source: Immigrant Legal Resource Center

However, Tom K. Wong, associate professor of political science at the University of California, San Diego did a study on sanctuary counties. Wong analyzed a sample of 2,492 counties from an ICE dataset. In the sample, 608 counties were identified as “sanctuary counties” because local law enforcement did not accept detainers requests from ICE to hold suspected undocumented individuals in custody for additional time. Some of his findings include:

  • There are 35.5 fewer violent and property crimes per 10,000 people in sanctuary counties versus non-sanctuary ones;
  • On average, sanctuary counties had higher median incomes (by about $4,353);
  • There is lower poverty (by 2.3 percent) in sanctuary counties; and
  • Sanctuary counties have slightly lower unemployment rates (1.1 percent)

Therefore, Wong concluded that sanctuary counties that protect all of their residents have a lower crime and higher economic well-being than non-sanctuary counties.

 As of the writing of this blog, the executive order is under litigation. San Francisco was the first city to sue the president arguing that it is a violation of the Constitution’s Tenth Amendment.

The president argues that implementation of the executive order will ensure the public safety of the nation. However, by targeting sanctuary cities, the order will only serve an antithetical result, as the public safety, economy, and social fabric of local communities will be affected. It will discourage undocumented immigrants from collaborating with local law enforcement, dissuade them from contributing to the local economy, and ultimately separate them from their families. What policies does your community currently have that would identify it as a sanctuary? How have sanctuary policies benefited or affected your community?

Credits: Images and data linked to sources.

 

 

The Influence of “Latino Urbanism” in Reshaping Los Angeles

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Food truck in Wilmington, Los Angeles, California

The influx of immigrants from Latin America has significantly increased since 1965. Push factors such as limited economic opportunities, authoritarian or corrupt governments, wars, and natural disasters have all played a significant role in why people from the Caribbean, Central America, Mexico, and South America have made the decision to emigrate to the United States. The migration of Latino immigrants to cities like Los Angeles further reinforces the notion of a “Multicultural America.” Where, one can savor a variety of cuisines, dance to different musical rhythms, and hear words and phrases spoken in Spanish and/or other dialects.

The influence of Latino culture is also reflected in the way Latinos utilize space in their communities or as James Rojas would call it the “enacted environment” or “Latino Urbanism.” In his 1991 thesis, The Enacted Environment: The Creation of Place by Mexican and Mexican Americans in East Los Angeles, Rojas discusses the way Latinos—specifically Mexicans and Mexican Americans—made use of spaces like the front yard, sidewalk, and the street in East Los Angeles. He argues that the person is not only the user but also the creator of such spaces. He cites as examples:

  • A quinceañera celebration in the front yard,
  • Kids playing a hockey or soccer game on the street,
  • Mariachis walking on the sidewalks waiting to serenade someone,
  • Street vendors on a street corner selling tamales or tacos, and
  • Murals painted on blank wall spaces that become a cultural expression.
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Mural in Boyle Heights, Los Angeles, California

More than 30 years later, we see these enacted environments taking place in other communities of Los Angeles and across the country. For instance, the first CicLAvia was held in Los Angeles on October 2010 and was inspired by ciclovía events that started forty years ago in Bogota, Colombia. This open streets initiative closes the streets to car traffic and allows Angelenos to walk, bike, and mingle with others. Latino Urbanism is thereby reshaping present-day Los Angeles.

However, there are aspects of it that have generated discussions and debates among Angelenos. Currently communities like Boyle Heights and South Los Angeles seek to legalize street vending, which for many represents a form of stable income for their families while others argue unfair competition and blight. Conversely, in August of 2013, the City of Los Angeles lifted a ten year ban on public murals, a component that has become a cultural icon of communities like Boyle Heights and Pacoima. This makes one wonder: how then do we reconcile the differences that exist between Latino Urbanism practices and enacted local municipal codes?

How has Latino Urbanism reshaped your community? How have local government officials responded to the influence of Latino Urbanism? 

Credits: Image #1 by Marisol Maciel-Cervantes; Image #2 linked to source.  Data linked to sources.

*This blog was originally posted in January 2016. H/T The Global Grid

Central Avenue Jazz Festival: Celebrating Cultural History in South Los Angeles

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Dunbar Hotel in Central Avenue, Los Angeles, California

In July 2015, the Vernon-Central neighborhood of South Los Angeles closed segments of Central Avenue to celebrate the annual Central Avenue Jazz Festival. That year was particularly special as it marked the twentieth anniversary of this event. Co-sponsored by the 9th District Los Angeles City Councilmember Curren D. Price, Jr. and Coalition for Responsible Community Development, this free two-day event attracts approximately 35,000 people every year. The festival represents an opportunity for members of the community and visitors alike to come together and make use of space usually reserved for transit. One can enjoy savory multicultural cuisine while visiting several pavilions and listening to live performances that include musical genres such as jazz, blues, and Latin jazz. Across two large stages, attendees listened to performers that included Alfredo Rodriguez Trio, the Kenny Burell Big Band, and Poncho Sanchez.

The jazz festival is a tribute to the community’s rich cultural history. During the 1930s and 1940s, Central Avenue was a vibrant center for jazz in this historically African-American area of the City of Los Angeles. Central Avenue also served as a temporary home for jazz legends like Billie Holiday, Duke Ellington, and Louis Armstrong. Despite being able to perform at venues such as the Hollywood Bowl, these jazz legends were unable to stay in the vicinity as there were racially restrictive covenants in place at the time that demarcated the areas where African-Americans were allowed to live.  Therefore, these jazz musicians, along with other visiting African-Americans celebrities, would stay at the now historical-cultural monument, the Dunbar Hotel located on Central Avenue.

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Stage at Central Avenue Jazz Festival, South Los Angeles, California

At the time, the Dunbar Hotel featured a night club called the Club Alabam where various jazz greats would play after hours. During this period of time, a vibrant scene of jazz clubs, literary societies, and concert venues existed around Central Avenue. As such, this area nurtured an atmosphere of cultural energy for talented African-Americans. It is this cultural richness that the Central Jazz Festival seeks to pay homage to and promulgate amongst enthusiasts and spectators.

Today the cultural influence of jazz and blues continues to be alive along Central Avenue via the annual celebration of the Central Avenue Jazz Festival.  In addition, this event has come to represent an opportunity to introduce and expose other sounds and rhythms to attendees.  The addition of other musical elements not only further enriches the experience of those present but it is also serves as an indicator of how music and this community have evolved with the passage of time.

How does your community make use of space to bring members of the community together? How does your community celebrate its cultural history? 

Credits: Image #1 linked to source; Image #2 by Marisol Maciel-Cervantes.  Data linked to sources.

*This blog was originally posted in January 2016. H/T The Global Grid

 

Touring Los Angeles, California Through a Toxic Lens

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Port of Los Angeles, Los Angeles, California

When visiting Los Angeles, one of the first things that often comes to mind is taking a tour of Hollywood or Beverly Hills. But how about opting for a Toxic Tour instead? The Communities for a Better Environment (CBE), an environmental justice organization that empowers people directly affected by pollution to solve their own problems, has been giving Toxic Tours since 1995. The purpose of these tours is to increase the public awareness of the minority communities and low-income communities that are most directly impacted by various sources of toxins and pollution.

Communities for a Better Environment offers a tour to the general public every quarter, which can either be narrated in English or Spanish by community organizer Roberto Cabrales. The toxic tour may focus in any of the following industrial neighborhoods, which include Bell, Huntington Park, Long Beach, San Pedro, Vernon, or Wilmington. In the tour one will see any of the following sites:

Such sites represent an environmental hazard and generate serious health problems to the residents of the communities, which are predominantly working class Latinos.

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Refinery in Wilmington, Los Angeles, California

Recent research conducted in the Los Angeles area primarily by scientists of the University of California-Los Angeles (UCLA) and the University of Southern California (USC), has found that there is a correlation between people living in proximity to freeways and a range of health problems that include asthma, reduced lung functioning, cardiovascular disease, and autism. In fact, the area that extends from Long Beach to East Los Angeles, is often referred to as the diesel death zone,” since emissions from trucks, ships, trains, and other diesel-powered sources are common here. Despite the decline in emissions around the Port of Los Angeles and the Port of Long Beach due to the implementation of new technologies—such as clean-truck program—the severe levels of pollution remain. Furthermore, hot spots for cancer-causing traffic pollutants have been found throughout the area, especially along the 710 freeway—which extends from Long Beach to Alhambra.

Given this reality, it is necessary to bring awareness to the public about the environmental and health hazards that residents of some of our communities must endure. Moreover, it is important to empower these populations by providing them with organizing skills, leadership training, as well as legal, scientific and technical assistance. However, it is also the obligation of policy makers and government officials to address these issues through legislation and initiatives.

Do you live in a community that is exposed to environmental hazards? What steps are being taken by policy makers and government officials in your community to address the issue(s)? 

Credits: Images by Marisol Maciel-Cervantes. Data linked to sources.

*This blog was originally posted in August 2015. H/T The Global Grid

 

Plans to Revitalize Los Angeles’ Jordan Downs now in Jeopardy over Federal Money

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Jordan Downs Public Housing Project in Watts, Los Angeles, California

In March of 2014, the Housing Authority of the City of Los Angeles (HACLA) learned that it would not receive a $30-million Choice Neighborhoods federal grant from the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). The decision represented a setback in the revitalization of the Jordan Downs housing project. It also was the cause of concern among some residents who, in the past, have experienced disillusionment when proposals to transform Jordan Downs have fallen apart. However, there is hope from the developers that funding for the project will come from other sources.

Jordan Downs is a 714-unit public housing project located in Watts, California. It was named after long-time residents of the area, David Starr Jordan and Samuel Elliot Downs. The premises consist of 103 buildings that range in size from one to five bedrooms. Owned and managed by HACLA, the apartment complex was originally built as semi-permanent housing for war workers during World War II. However, in the early 1950s, HACLA converted the dwellings into public housing.

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Jordan Downs Public Housing Project in Watts, Los Angeles, California

Plans to revitalize Jordan Downs began in the fall of 2008 when HACLA and the City of Los Angeles issued a Request for Proposal (RFP) and Request for Qualifications (RFQ) package for the redevelopment of the apartment complex. City officials also made it clear that they sought to create a “vibrant urban village that is sustainable, mixed-used, mixed-income community that includes green development and encompasses all the amenities that enable communities to ‘sustain’ over the long term.” That same year, HACLA acquired a nearby 21-acre piece of land for $31 million. The purchase serves as an indicator of their intent to expand upon the existing housing project.

It is envisioned that this $700 million multi-phase redevelopment project will replace the existing 714 public housing apartments and add up to 1,400 affordable and market-rate homes. Furthermore, the urban village will include neighborhood-serving retail, community centers, and parks. The plan also proposes the development of a comprehensive Human Capital Plan to provide family support, job training, and community programs for residents to move forward toward self-sufficiency. Collaborating in this vision is a private development team hired by city officials, the for-profit Michaels Organization and the non-profit Bridge Housing. The retail component of the proposed project will be undertaken by Primestor Development Inc., a Los Angeles company known for working in underserved areas.

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Jordan Downs Public Housing Project in Watts, Los Angeles, California

Today, plans to move forward with the proposed project continue. However, HACLA and its team will have to address some concerns that have been conveyed by local residents, advocacy groups, and other interested stakeholders. Among these are:

  • Secure funding that will enable the revitalization of Jordan Downs housing project;
  • Confirm that there is no contamination of the soil in the proposed site or sites adjacent to the proposed project given the history of heavy industrialization in the area;
  • Ensure that existing residents are not displaced as a result of this redevelopment project;
  • Implement the proposed Human Capital Plan;
  • Attract investment into the community;
  • Continue to decrease the crime rates in the Jordan Downs.

What redevelopment initiative has served as a catalyst for revitalizing your community into an economically, socially, and environmentally sustainable neighborhood? How have local officials in your community addressed financing challenges in publicly funded projects?

Credits: Images by Marisol Maciel-Cervantes. Data linked to sources.

*This blog was originally posted in August 2015. H/T The Global Grid

Los Angeles’ South Park BID Embarks on Green Alley Initiative

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Alley in Los Angeles, California

In many cities around the world, the use of alleyways have been an integral part of the urban landscape. They have been a place of cultural and civic activity. However, in the United States, we have often viewed alleys as being unappealing service corridors associated with crime, vice, and street vagrancy. In other words, a space that is not meant for public use. However, several cities across the United States, including Baltimore, Chicago, and Seattle, have begun taking steps towards revitalizing their alleys through the infusion of green elements.

Envisioning a more sustainable and greener community, the South Park Business Improvement District (South Park BID) partnered with the Los Angeles Sustainability Collaborative (LASC) to organize the preparation of the “Green Alleys in South Park Visioning Report.” This report provides a series of recommendations for creating more green spaces through the revitalization of its twenty-two alleyways. The report provides three different typologies that would serve as a guide for their transformation. These are: Typology A (complete transformation); Typology B (partial transformation); and Typology C (baseline transformation).

Typology A is characterized by maximizing the pedestrian and cyclist experience. This means that, with the exception of emergency vehicles, there would be restrictions to all motorized transport and illegal dumping.

Under Typology B, the use of vehicles is allowed except for parking purposes and long idling periods. In addition, it grants all forms of transportation equal use of the space, as well as to the general public. Like Typology A, illegal dumping is prohibited.

Typology C grants the general public full access to the alley and allows for all forms of transportation. Like in Typology A and B, illegal dumping is prohibited. This typology enables vehicles to freely use the alleys for means of access and short-cutting but it means that it would limit the full community development potential.

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Alley in Los Angeles, California

Common design interventions across all three typologies include:

  • Permeable Surfaces
  • Drought-Tolerant Plants
  • Pedestrian Lighting
  • Recycling and Trash Cans
  • Public Art, Murals, Green Walls and Other Façade Improvements
  • Bike Racks
  • Wayfinding Signage and Branding
  • Monitored and Patrolled Regularly
  • Dog Waste Stations

Seeking creative ways to make use of underutilized spaces is necessary in areas that currently lack green space and inviting public spaces. However, there are some challenges that will have to be addressed when implementing any of these design ideas into the twenty-two alleys. Among these are the limited funding sources and the existing City of Los Angeles code and policies that do not contain provisions for this type of project. There is hope that through community participation, public-private partnerships, and changes to the Quimby Act, the revitalization of these alleys will take place.

How has the revitalization of alleys impacted the development of your community? What initiatives and policies have proved to be beneficial in making alleys greener in your community? 

Credits: Images by Marisol Maciel-Cervantes. and data linked to sources.

*This blog was originally posted in August 2015. H/T The Global Grid