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The move places Honolulu smack in the middle of a national debate over “sanctuary jurisdictions” — hundreds of local communities across the country that refuse to enforce federal immigration laws.
Instead, the resolution urges the city to limit its cooperation with the federal crackdown on immigrants, requesting the Honolulu Police Department to not direct any resources to honoring “detainers” — requests issued by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement to hold immigrants in custody for up to 48 hours beyond the release date.
Councilwoman Carol Fukunaga told Civil Beat that the point of the resolution was to affirm the city’s commitment to diversity.
“‘Sanctuary cities’ and other terms have sort of tended to polarize people, whereas I think what we wanted to do is to emphasize what we stand for,” said Fukunaga, who introduced the resolution with three other members.
“The thing that’s very compelling about Hawaii is that almost all of our residents have some immigrant roots, and many of the people who may be undocumented immigrants have become contributing members of our society,” Fukunaga said. “That’s one of the strengths in Hawaii.”
Fukunaga said she was also concerned that HPD lacks the legal authority to hold immigrants without a court-issued warrant.
“If you’re going to be asked to undertake additional law enforcement responsibilities on behalf of the federal government, there should be a pretty clear connection to show that these particular individuals are in fact harmful and dangerous, and there should be a higher standard for holding them,” Fukunaga said.
Councilman Joey Manahan, who immigrated from the Philippines, voiced his support for the resolution.
“As somebody who immigrated to this country many years ago, I really feel it’s important to know that you live in a free society, that you have an inalienable rights and — more than anything else — having that peace of mind knowing that your police force will not come after you just because you’re not from here,” Manahan said.
The resolution’s adoption comes at a time when a legal fight is brewing over President Donald Trump’s executive order on immigration, issued Jan. 25, that threatens to withhold what could be billions of dollars in federal funds from sanctuary jurisdictions.
On Tuesday, the Trump administration suffered a major setback: A federal judge in San Francisco issued a preliminary injunction against defunding of sanctuary jurisdictions.
In a 49-page opinion, U.S. District Court Judge William Orrick ruled that Trump overstepped Congress’ fiscal authority.
“The Constitution vests the spending powers in Congress, not the president, so the order cannot constitutionally place new conditions on federal funds,” Orrick wrote.
Orrick also rejected the Trump administration’s argument that the lawsuits were premature, pointing out that Trump and Attorney General Jeff Sessions have been singing a different tune — and threatening an imminent crackdown.
In a February interview, for instance, Trump said the threat of defunding was “a weapon” to use against sanctuary jurisdictions.
“I don’t want to defund anybody. I want to give them the money they need to properly operate as a city or a state,” Trump said. “If they’re going to have sanctuary cities, we may have to do that. Certainly, that would be a weapon.”
Orrick also cited press conferences in which Sessions and White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer threatened to “claw back any funds” from sanctuary jurisdictions.
“The statements of the president, his press secretary and the attorney general belie the government’s argument in the briefing that the order does not change the law,” Orrick wrote. “They have repeatedly indicated an intent to defund sanctuary jurisdictions in compliance with the executive order.
“The threat of the order and the uncertainty it is causing impermissibly interferes with the (plaintiffs’) ability to operate, to provide key services, to plan for the future, and to budget,” Orrick wrote.
Orrick’s injunction is only temporary — remaining in place until he can rule on the underlying constitutional issues. But he indicated that he leaned in favor of San Francisco and Santa Clara counties, which brought the lawsuits.
In a statement, Dennis Herrera, the San Francisco city attorney, hailed Orrick’s ruling.
“This is why we have courts — to halt the overreach of a president and an attorney general who either don’t understand the Constitution or chose to ignore it,” Herrera wrote. “Because San Francisco took this president to court, we’ve been able to protect billions of dollars that fund lifesaving programs across this country.”
The White House derided Orrick’s ruling, saying it represented “yet one more example of egregious overreach by a single, unelected district judge.”
“This San Francisco judge’s erroneous ruling is a gift to the criminal gang and cartel element in our country, empowering the worst kind of human trafficking and sex trafficking, and putting thousands of innocent lives at risk,” the White House said in a statement.
On Wednesday, Trump himself lashed out at Orrick, vowing on Twitter that he’ll fight all the way to the Supreme Court.
“First the (9th) Circuit rules against the ban & now it hits again on sanctuary cities — both ridiculous rulings,” Trump wrote. “See you in the Supreme Court!”
You can read the resolution here: