There are hundreds of sanctuary cities nationwide, providing relief from the prospect of deportation to undocumented immigrants who live and work in those places. American colleges and universities have followed suit, becoming part of a major movement nationwide to create “sanctuary campuses.”
And now, Oakland, California, appears to be the first city to champion “sanctuary workplaces” through a city council resolution adopted earlier this week. The measure, championed by immigration rights groups, would prevent employers from working with Immigration and Customs Enforcement to identify employees who are in the country illegally.
“Sanctuary workplaces” are places “where workers are respected and not discriminated against or threatened based on their immigration status,” Oakland City Council member Abel Guillen, who introduced the bill, told local news. “Workers, regardless of their immigration status, have rights,” he added.
Of course, not all employers are happy about the development, because it likely means that they can’t fire or punish employees they discover have violated the law during a self-audit, putting employers at risk of punishment for hiring illegals. It also requires that employers refuse to work with ICE if immigration enforcement shows up at their door.
But according to immigration rights activists, it’s not wrong for Oakland to force employers to violate the law, it’s “compassionate.” “This is more of a moral call to action to employers to say this is who we are as a city,” they said in a statement.
The measure will take effect immediately, which is convenient, considering that illegal immigrants are being asked to identify themselves and walk off their jobs in the Bay Area May 1, May Day, as part of a national demonstration.