Santa Monica City Manager Rick Cole sent a letter Tuesday to Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), terminating a routine and cost-sharing agreement with the federal agency.
The letter [PDF], which was addressed to ICE and Homeland Security Special Agent Joseph Macias, terminated a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) that had been signed by Santa Monica Police Chief Jacqueline Seabrooks and dealt with “reimbursement of costs incurred by the SMPD [Santa Monica Police Department] in providing resources to joint operations/task forces including reimbursement of costs regarding the assignment of an SMPD officer” in ongoing investigations of “international narcotics interdiction, human smuggling/trafficking, bulk cash smuggling, weapons smuggling, and cross border criminal activity,” according to Cole’s letter.
While the MOU [PDF] contains an explicit addendum [PDF] clarifying Santa Monica’s longstanding policy that its police force would not assist in “any enforcement efforts which are singularly focused on civil immigration enforcement, such as sweeps, raids, or other related tasks,” Cole’s letter noted that he had not reviewed the MOU. That appears to be the main reason for terminating the current MOU.
In an email to Santa Monica Next, Cole explained, “It apparently is a long-standing practice that precedes Chief Seabrooks for law enforcement agencies to memorialize their joint investigations with agreements that detail the terms, including interagency reimbursements. They have never come to the City Manager although they always should have. We have quite a few it seems with other local, regional and Federal law enforcement agencies. Going forward, we will correct this oversight,” he said.
When asked what effect the decision to terminate the MOU might have, Cole said it wasn’t clear.
“Remember, although one can read into the terms lots of concerns reflecting the current toxic climate around immigration issues, this is not about immigration – it is about our long-standing (more than twenty years) close collaboration with the Feds on drug trafficking, human trafficking and other cross-border criminal activity,” he wrote in an email to Next.
“So we don’t want to jeopardize that work, but we will seek a formula for continuing that work while drawing a bright line against being involved in the (feared) immigration crack-down,” Cole wrote.
“The form of setting the terms for continuing collaboration on cross-border criminal activity (informal or new MOU, etc.?) will have to meet the needs and processes of both our City and the Feds. Too soon to tell what form that might take or how long it will take to decide,” he wrote.
Cole pointed to the addendum as further proof of the city’s commitment to protecting those who live and work in Santa Monica regardless of their immigration status.
“[The addendum] was initiated by our side in January because the Chief was concerned about any inadvertent ambiguity in the MOU,” Cole wrote. “She wanted to clearly spell out the intent — which is to work together on cross-border criminal activity — and draw a bright line against SMPD being involved in immigration enforcement. That resulted in the March signatures by both parties once approved by the Feds.”
Given that 23 percent of Santa Monica residents are foreign-born immigrants, the city has been making sure to voice this stance loud and clear.
Shortly after the presidential election, Seabrooks issued a statement reaffirming the city’s long-standing policy of not enforcing federal immigration laws or cooperating with federal agencies in matters related solely to immigration.
She also spoke in February at a bilingual city-sponsored forum on immigrants’ rights that was cohosted by Familias Latinas Unidas, a local activist group based out of Virginia Avenue Park. At that meeting she said, “We take policy direction that comes from your mayor and your city council, not from the president.”
Shortly after that forum, the City Council voted to adopt a resolution that once again affirmed neither the police department nor the city shall use “City monies, resources, or personnel to investigate, question, detect, apprehend, detain or register persons whose only violation is or may be a violation of the civil provisions of federal immigration law related to documented status.”
In a statement attributed to Seabrooks posted by the Santa Monica Daily Press on the newspaper’s Facebook page, she said, “Moving forward, both the City and ICE will work towards terms of collaboration on criminal matters that are in line with the City’s immigration policies.”