Town Business: Oakland vs. ICE


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Oakland vs. ICE: Obama was hardly a friend to immigrants. His administration deported millions over eight years, mostly people without a criminal conviction. But come January 20, the federal government's law enforcement agencies will be led by Donald Trump, a man who slandered Mexicans as "rapists," and "criminals," announced his intent to create a "registry" of Muslims, and promised to triple the size of the Immigration and Custom Enforcement agency (ICE).

We should expect Trump to deliver on his promises by attacking immigrant communities with even more surveillance and deportations.

The City of Oakland expects no less, and is therefore preparing to fight back. Along with Alameda County's Public Defender and several nonprofits, the city is working to create and fund a rapid response network of five full-time attorneys to represent immigrants swept up by immigration authorities.

The network will also operate a hotline staffed by five outreach workers who can take calls from people seeking assistance, or even receive tips about ICE raids in real time. According to a city staff report, the same team of community responders will also document immigration enforcement activity, cop watch-style.

Proactively, the network will conduct know your rights trainings in schools, places of worship, clinics, and other safe spaces to help Oaklanders defend themselves against the Trump administration and law federal enforcement.

Oakland's contribution to the network would be $300,000 over the next two years.

Saving Oakland's SROs: From 1985 to 2015 Oakland lost 799 residential hotel units – rooms that serve as the housing of last resort for many low-income, elderly, disabled, and fixed-income people. The city is at risk of losing even more of this type of important affordable housing as developers zero in on SROs to convert them into boutique hotels, apartments, and even offices.

To prevent the loss of more, the Oakland City Council is considering a temporary 45-day ban on the conversion of SROs.

The text of the ordinance has several exceptions, including if the SRO is being converted into apartments by an affordable housing developer. Another exception is if the landlord uses the Ellis Act to withdraw the SRO units from the rental housing market and turn it into a condo, or offices.

The point of the moratorium is to give city staff more time to think up ways of permanently protecting Oakland's SRO housing from demolition or conversion. That, however, might take changes to state law.