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Santa Monica Council Moves Forward on Immigration, Religious Identity Ordinance
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By Jonathan Friedman
Associate Editor

February 17, 2017 -- After hearing from numerous public speakers who said they lived in fear under the Donald Trump presidency, the Santa Monica City Council passed a measure calling for staff to draft an ordinance that would prohibit employers and landlords, among others, from collecting information on people’s immigration status, religion and sexual identity.

Councilmember McKeown, who proposed the measure along with Councilmember Sue Himmelrich said, “What we have here [from the federal government] is overt discrimination against people based on religion."

He continued, "We also have people being discriminated against on immigration status. And we have a great deal of fear in the community.”

The action comes after President Trump signed an executive order last month that would have halted travel from seven countries with mostly Muslim populations designated by the Obama Administration as “areas of concern” because of terrorist activity.

Trump said Thursday that he will issue a new order after a federal court placed the original travel ban on hold. He also has vowed to crack down on illegal immigration.

There are many people who disagree with the opinion that those items are discriminatory, but only one of them spoke at the council meeting Tuesday.

“Without turning illegal persons over to immigration and customs enforcement when encountered by police, police keep having a more dangerous job,” said Jonathan Foster, who speaks several times at every council meeting, usually in opposition to its actions.

The proposal on the table only focused on immigration status and religious affiliation, but Himmelrich requested that sexual orientation and identity be added.

“I’m concerned that there is enough bias against sexual orientation and it’s such a recently recognized way of living that I’m worried about a backlash,” she said.

Interim City Attorney Joseph Lawrence said his staff would write “as aggressive and creative an ordinance as we can,” but he reminded people that the government can only do so much to protect people’s privacy in the Internet age.

McKeown added that people should “be careful” what they share on Facebook and elsewhere on the Internet.

The council approved the measure unanimously.

In addition to requesting the drafting of an ordinance, the measure also calls for “staff to work with other entities and organizations on how best to reassure members of our community who are feeling vulnerable on immigration and religious practice issues.”


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