Opinion: WeHo’s Proclamation as a Sanctuary City Puts Politics Ahead of Public Safety

Please allow me to introduce myself. My name is Jake Lee, and I was born and raised in West Hollywood. I love my city with its rich history of rock and roll, classic architecture (what’s left of it), the ease of accessibility to city officials and its “small town in the midst of a big city” vibe. I’m the first-born American in my family of immigrants. My mother immigrated from Mexico in 1963 and my father from France around the same time. I am also the grandson of two Jewish Holocaust survivors.

Jake Lee

In 2002, I chose to buy a home in West Hollywood and raise a child here. I chose West Hollywood because of its diversity as well as its commitment to public safety. In fact, after my daughter was born, I became the official Neighborhood Watch captain for the city’s largest single section of West Hollywood, which is Center City. I have offered my time and service to the city and its residents for the last nine years. I’ve established relationships with our great Sheriff’s Department, our mayor, our city council members and our public safety officials. I have organized numerous National Night Out block parties, have attended counter-terrorism task force briefings and have even been awarded and acknowledged for my efforts to help keep our neighborhood safe.

The issue that I and many of us in West Hollywood have is that our city officials believe that they have the right to speak on behalf of ALL of the residents of our city, and that is simply incorrect and in fact dangerous. By now, we all know and can safely assume the personal political leanings of all of our city council members, and it’s no surprise.

In case you missed it, about two weeks ago, the City of West Hollywood sent out an official Tweet stating: “We’d like to remind @realDonaldTrump and the new administration that West Hollywood is- and shall always be- a Sanctuary City. #weho

My burning questions are: Who is this a sanctuary for? Wasn’t the original intention of West Hollywood to be a sanctuary for the safety of the law-abiding LGBT community, their families, friends and anyone else who wishes to live, work and play in a diverse community?

Political grandstanding by our elected officials is not only wrong but tweeting a statement such as this sends a clear message to anyone here illegally who wishes to commit serious crimes that West Hollywood is the place to set up shop and that you don’t have to fear any consequences of deportation or federal charges being brought upon you if you are caught.

Many people are unaware that not only California but also L.A. County has major problems with human trafficking, many of the ring leaders being illegal aliens. In fact, law enforcement just did a major operation leading to the arrests of over 400 criminals involved in human trafficking rings. Is it the position of our city officials to put the burden of prosecuting and the eventual costs of incarceration on the California taxpayer rather than turning these cases over to the federal government where they can best handle these types of crimes?

On Feb. 24, 2015, L.A. County Sheriff Jim McDonnell issued a press release titled “Human Trafficking- Statement of Los Angeles County Sheriff Jim McDonnell during Senate Committee on the Judiciary Hearing.” The press release can be found here in its entirety http://shq.lasdnews.net/pages/PageDetail.aspx?id=2687. In a nutshell, it discusses the problems with human sex trafficking in L.A. County and ways to work with federal officials in cracking down on these crime syndicates. It supports the approach in pending legislation to strengthen the federal prosecution of those engaged in commercial sexual exploitation of children. It also mentions working jointly with federal task forces as well as requesting for additional federal funding to help with this battle.

Fast forward to Jan. 25, 2017, where West Hollywood Mayor Lauren Meister stated: “In response to the outcome of the presidential election, an item was brought to council to reaffirm the city’s core values and direct staff to prepare responses to anticipated action by the new presidential administration. This item, which garnered unanimous support among council, re-affirms our city’s policy as a sanctuary city and specifically gives direction to the Sheriff Department to NOT provide assistance to federal agencies that are attempting to harass, arrest or deport undocumented workers or immigrants.”

Of course, my question is: “Is it the position of the city to order our local law enforcement to not cooperate with federal law enforcement even if a violent criminal or human trafficker is found to be an undocumented worker or immigrant?”

Interestingly enough, Sheriff McDonnell, whose department provides public safety services to West Hollywood, issued a statement supporting the city’s statement — a statement that drastically negates, refutes and contradicts his statement just two years earlier: “The executive order does not change the mission of the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department. Our priority continues to protect the public. Our department policy clearly states that our deputies do not ask for one’s immigration status. Immigration enforcement remains a federal responsibility.”

One does not need to “ask” for one’s immigration status anymore after the California legislature allowed illegal immigrants to have driver’s licenses. It clearly says on the license itself “federal limits apply.” This means that the driver’s license issued is only for the purpose of driving and not for use with employment. This information/identification now eliminates the need for a sheriff’s deputy to ask for immigration status.

Is it the position of the Sheriff’s Department to not cooperate with federal officials should a violent criminal be arrested and booked in our city, even when the alleged criminal’s immigration status is known just by looking at his or her driver’s license?

By the city officially establishing the status of sanctuary city, it puts federal funding for all sorts of programs in jeopardy, including those needed to help battle the most serious of serious crimes.

It is and continues to remain my position and the positions of thousands more like me who live, work and play in the City of West Hollywood that politics does not supersede public safety. Ever! I will continue to fight and to be the voice for the safety of all residents in West Hollywood who also feel that the city council members and mayor do not have their best interests in mind when it comes to public safety.


23 Comments
  1. You lose ALL credibility in that Trump T-shirt. I am proud that our city stands up to the racists (like the man you worship). I hate to break it to you, but the City Council and Mayor Meister *DO* speak for all residents of West Hollywood. We elected them to do exactly that.

    I also hate to break it you, Trump-lover Jake, you represent a tiny, fraction of a minority here in West Hollywood. We overwhelmingly did not support Trump, and a Republican couldn’t get elected dog catcher here. If anyone does not speak for West Hollywood, it is you.

  2. Mike, I question where you get your news if you don’t hear about the violent crimes committed by illegal immigrants all over the country all the time. An inordinate percentage of crimes are committed by illegal immigrants and poor legal immigrants.

    The “home-grown” gangs you referred to (I assume we’re talking about Hispanic gangs) are populated by immigrants who should have never been here. MS-13, by far the most violent of any of the gangs, black or Hispanic, is straight out of El Salvador.

    It looks like you don’t have much experience or knowledge about this issue, so you are relying on your feelings. So I suggest you start to FEEL a little less, and THINK a little more. In order to do that you will need to go out of your way to find the information that people who have other opinions read and hear to form their opinions.

  3. Blueeyedboy, Please cite specifics of the hundreds, maybe thousands, of those cases. I’ve lived and worked in Hollywood/West Hollywood for almost 40 years and I can say that our own home-grown gangs are a bigger threat to society. People who come to the US illegally don’t do so lightly. They have no choice or they just want to make a better life for themselves. Our current President and his staff are nothing but xenophobic, Nationalist, Opportunistic a..holes who prey on the insecurities and paranoia of way too many people.

  4. Ryan Robert Gierach, I WAS in law enforcement for 26 years. What you said to Jake is what every neophyte says about this issue. If that’s the best you’ve got you should be embarrassed.

  5. Mike, the Steinle case is NOT an isolated one; there are hundreds, maybe thousands of cases like this. Take into consideration that the reason a lot of immigrants come here is because they’re running from the law in their home country. YES, I want every Hispanic gang member deported, I want EVERY Hispanic with a criminal record deported. I worked in law enforcement for 26 years, so I see a different side of this than you do. Protecting citizens is the first responsibility of government. Sanctuary cities are in direct conflict with that responsibility. FEEL a little less, Mike, and THINK a little more. Your compassion is misguided.

  6. Jake, unfortunately, casting a pall on law enforcement’s efforts to collect data on criminality m e in emigrate neighborhoods makes us far less safe. If empires refuse to talk to police out of fear of deportation or simple harassment, you can’t get the criminals you want caught put into jail.
    Had you a conversation with someone in law enforcement and outside the Trumpkin bubble, you’d have saved yourself this embarrassment.

  7. Blueeyedboy: Are you going to cite an isolated incident to justify a blanket discriminatory policy? That’s like saying that since there are so many Latino and Black gangs we should lock up every Latino and Black. This whole xenophobic attitude displayed by some Americans makes me sick. Steinle’s case is very sad and unfortunate but I still don’t see the logic of condemning every immigrant for what one bad one did.

  8. None of you seem to understand what the definition of a sanctuary city is, particularly you Jake. First, I don’t believe you support diversity in any way. I think you said that to try to soften the harshness of your opinion. Secondly, a sanctuary city means that the police will not arrest you for being an undocumented immigrant. That’s all, nothing more. The reason for this is that it promotes the reporting of crimes by people who live or work in our community and who are not documented. You claim to like law and order but have no idea what policies even mean. The fact that you don’t do your homework is typical of the reactionary right who doesn’t care about facts or take the time to actually learn anything before they express their outrage over it. Turn off Fox News and listen to responsible and reliable sources of information.

  9. Mike, ask Kate Steinle’s family about the humanity of the the SF Sherif’s Dept. when they protected her killer from the Feds.

  10. I don’t like Donald Trump and I oppose his policies. While it is clear that many Trump supporters are hateful demonizing all Trump supporters is counter productive. Demonizing anyone who disagrees with us does not lead to thoughtful debate or adult discussions of the issues that divide our nation. Let’s not burn bridges; at some point we need to try to find common ground to move our country forward. I am angry at the direction that Trump and his cronies are taking this country but the exploitation of our emotions by cynics and self promoters is not going to make the situation any better. A while back some of the very people pushing us toward hatred were painting their faces to “Stop 8ate”; Let’s practice what we preached and try to envision a better world where we can discuss issues with civility and respect. I appreciate the fact that Jake is trying to lead us toward a civil discussion on an issue that is divisive. Democracy works best when there is an open market place of ideas.

  11. Excellent point you make here, Jake! Thank you for taking responsibility and stating the truth! Sanctuary Cities are a heaven for undocumented criminals! A hiding place for those who commit criminal acts and know that they will get away with it!. It’s high time we “Make America Great Again”! God Bless our President Donald J. Trump and God Bless you and all the people who understand what you are talking about!

    Anyone who does not understand this, is not informed.

  12. The federal government cannot take away city funding for refusing to do the federal government’s job (immigration enforcement). This is settled law.

  13. Jake, you have said it so much better than I could, and I applaud you for it. West Hollywood is tolerant of everything EXCEPT divergent opinions.

    This might be a good time for a reminder of Kate Steinle, the 30ish year old woman who was murdered in San Francisco a couple of years ago by an illegal immigrant who had five deportations on his record. The Sherifs Department refused to report him to the Feds after his last release because they are a sanctuary city, of which they are very proud. The guy who shot her said that he was in SF, rather than other places he would prefer, because it is a sanctuary city.

    Sanctuary city policy is compassion without logic. I’m hoping clearer heads will prevail.

  14. I don’t think “sanctuary city” means being a hideout for criminals. Nor does it mean aiding and abetting them. Based on the definition below I interpret it to mean not turning someone in just for being here illegally. They’re still subject to laws including sex trafficking which is a Federal crime. Losing Federal funding is a separate issue.

    “Despite federal law (the Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act of 1996) requiring local government to cooperate with the Department of Homeland Security, some cities across the United States have adopted what are commonly known as “sanctuary policies.” These generally direct city employees not to notify the federal government of the presence of illegal immigrants living in their communities. These policies do not make a distinction between legal and illegal residents, often allowing persons with no legal status in the United States to fully benefit from city services. The County of Los Angeles and the City of Los Angeles both have formally adopted “sanctuary” policies. There are other cities (and some school districts) within Los Angeles County that have also allegedly adopted and/or practice variations of these policies.” (from laalmanac.com)

  15. This is my position and also position of 1000’s of refugees from former USSR.
    Thank you, Jake. We need people like you in City Council.

  16. You are outnumbered and you are not normal. Anyone who support Trump should be called don’t and should not be welcome in the city. Anyone who supports him are complicit in the normalization of white supremacy, neo-nazism and Fascism.

  17. Thanks for pointing out that as a sanctuary city, sex traffickers will now get a free get of jail card if they are undocumented workers or immigrants.

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