June 21–OAKLAND — BART’s governing board on Thursday will consider adding the four-county transit district to the growing list of local jurisdictions refusing to enforce federal immigration laws.
The proposed policy, dubbed “Safe Transit,” would prohibit BART from spending any money or resources on enforcing federal immigration laws, and it would forbid BART employees, including its police officers, from questioning riders about their immigration status, except if that cooperation is required by federal or state laws, or through a court order.
It also prohibits BART employees from asking prospective vendors or new hires about their immigration status, or threatening to deny a rider or employee benefits based on their immigration status, among other provisions.
BART Director Lateefah Simon, who introduced the proposed policy earlier this year with Director Nicholas Josefowitz, emphasized the idea is to focus BART employees’ time on operating the system, rather than enforcing federal laws.
“Not only will the policy deeply express BART’s commitment to our riders, but it is also about preserving the separation of the duties and resources of local government from those of the federal government,” she said.
Initially billed as a “Sanctuary in Transit” policy to mirror the sanctuary city statutes in municipalities across the Bay Area, including San Francisco, Oakland and San Jose, the policy has since been renamed. The name change came after BART General Manager Grace Crunican pointed out that President Donald Trump issued an executive order stating sanctuary cities would not be eligible for federal funding.
Last year, BART received about $55 million in federal funds, including money for capital projects and police services.
A federal court judge has since blocked the executive order, saying in April the cities and counties that have adopted such policies would suffer “irreparable harm” if the order was allowed to stand. Roughly a month later, however, the same judge agreed to reconsider his ruling in light of a memo from Attorney General Jeff Sessions.
Sessions argued the funding only applies only to a relatively small amount of money from just two federal agencies: the Department of Justice and the Department of Homeland Security.
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