Political Notebook

Fresno City Council reactions divided to Brand’s sanctuary city stance

Fresno Mayor Lee Brand’s declaration to The Fresno Bee’s editorial board that he does not support Fresno becoming a “sanctuary city” for undocumented immigrants – in the wake of efforts by President Donald Trump to crack down on illegal immigration and step up deportation actions – sparked some conflicting sentiments from two members of the Fresno City Council.

Brand said Wednesday that Fresno won’t join San Francisco, Los Angeles and about 40 other cities to enact some form of sanctuary policy that offers political or policy support for undocumented residents. On the same day that President Trump issued an executive order to strip federal money from communities that refuse to cooperate with his immigration enforcement doctrine, the message from Fresno’s new mayor was clear: figuratively speaking, there’s no upside to waving a red cape in front of a snorting bull and putting much-needed federal funds at risk.

“In the case of a sanctuary city, we’re a nation of laws, and I can’t selectively interpret which law I want to follow. So Fresno is not a sanctuary city, and I don’t intend to make Fresno a sanctuary city,” Brand said. “If by putting Fresno as a sanctuary city I’m jeopardizing millions of dollars in potential infrastructure funds, then I’m not serving my city. Ultimately, my responsibility is to the people of Fresno.”

“To get caught in these culture wars is going to be divisive and dysfunctional for the citizens of Fresno,” Brand said in his customary analytical fashion. “To me, (immigration) is a federal issue. It’s up to the federal government to get a comprehensive immigration policy. The ag industry in this region wants the same thing, they want to find a solution. But that’s up to the federal government to do that.”

The next day, City Council members Esmeralda Soria and Garry Bredefeld weighed in from their posts on the council dais with markedly differing views of Brand’s position.

While Soria did not call for an outright declaration that Fresno become a sanctuary city, she said she wants to “make sure our community knows those immigrants that live in the city that are documented, and also undocumented but are great contributors to our local economy, that they know that I stand with them to ensure that there’s no local policies that will jeopardize their safety here in our city.”

“I know the complications of the issue because we don’t want to jeopardize federal funding to our city,” Soria said. But, she added, “I want to make sure (immigrants) feel that they’re still welcomed, that we have their back  regardless of what our president does.”

Brand on Wednesday said Fresno police are not playing a role in enforcing immigration laws, instead concentrating on apprehending criminals regardless of their immigration status. Soria said she confirmed that on Thursday with Police Chief Jerry Dyer.

Bredefeld had a markedly different view and expressed support for Brand’s position.

“Mayor Brand said we’re not going to be a sanctuary city; I would certainly hope so,” Bredefeld said. “This council, if we needed to take a position, we can, but I support the mayor that this not be a sanctuary city. I would never support that.”

“I too support immigration, but legal immigration,” he added. “I don’t want to give a speech up here, but I’m glad the mayor’s taken the position and it’s the only position I would have expected him to take.”