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.


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Tom
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Tom

Just saw you on CNN with Pelosi/Cuomo!

David t
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David t

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.

blueeyedboy
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blueeyedboy

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… Read more »

Mike
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Mike

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.

blueeyedboy
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blueeyedboy

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.

blueeyedboy
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blueeyedboy

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… Read more »

Ryan Robert Gierach
Guest

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.

Mike
Guest
Mike

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.

Robert Muniz
Guest

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… Read more »

Matt Ralston
Guest

What is it like to live in a constant state of unfounded outrage and fear?

blueeyedboy
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blueeyedboy

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