Citing “real fear” in the community since Donald Trump was elected president last month, San Jose Police Chief Eddie Garcia vowed to continue the city’s policy of not cooperating with federal immigration enforcement.
In a press conference held Friday morning at SJPD headquarters, Mayor Sam Liccardo, City Manager Norberto Dueñas and Mauricio Toussaint, Mexico’s consul general to San Jose, joined Garcia in trying to ease concerns about promises the president-elect has made. These include the deportation of all undocumented immigrants, including children. On Friday, city officials insisted the city and police department’s policy would not change in the face of pressure from the federal level.
“This is nothing new in San Jose,” Garcia said. “I am here to reassure the community that our long standing stance on immigration laws will not change.”
Three weeks have passed since the new president was elected, and Toussaint warned of scam artists trying to take advantage of fears within immigrant communities.
“Mexicans are scared of what is going to happen to them,” he said, “and unfortunately there are people out there who are trying to take legal advantage of this situation with deportation.”
Last summer, a Trump campaign rally in San Jose turned violent when protestors started fighting with the Republican nominee’s supporters. In some cases, people wearing Trump shirts and hats were targeted. Rather than go out into crowds and risk escalating the situation, Garcia said, law enforcement chose to hold the line outside of the Convention Center.
Trump supporters were angered by this decision and filed a lawsuit against the city of San Jose, blaming Chief Garcia and Mayor Liccardo for the violence that ensued. A day after the event, Liccardo suggested that Trump’s divisive campaign rhetoric was, in part, responsible for enflaming tensions at his rallies.
“While it’s a sad statement about our political discourse that Mr. Trump has focused on stirring antagonism instead of offering real solutions to our nation’s challenges, there is absolutely no place for violence against people who are simply exercising their rights to participate in the political process,” Liccardo said.
A day later, the mayor put out a clarifying statement.
“Nothing that Donald Trump says absolves those individuals of responsibility for their violent conduct,” Liccardo said.
According to Trump’s website, the president-elect intends to “prioritize jobs, wages and security of the American people,” and to “establish new immigration controls to boost wages and to ensure that open jobs are offered to American workers first.”
Part of this plan will apparently involve the deportation of more than 11 million undocumented immigrants, as well as cutting off federal funds to sanctuary cities, which San Jose would be according to the city’s current position.
At Friday’s press conference, Mayor Liccardo was careful not to use that term as he spoke about San Jose’s long-standing tradition as a city open to all immigrants. The mayor said that San Jose has a strong bond between its police officers and residents. If people are scared to interact with police because of fears of being deported, he added, the whole community suffers.
“San Jose is at the forefront of creating a community policing framework that dates back to the 1980s,” Liccardo said. “The linchpin of that strategy is creating trust within the community. We have to be sure that this relationship of trust continues.”
Chief Garcia emphasized that the city’s position is nothing new and the department would not change policies for any particular president.
“To me, it is not about politics,” Garcia said. “It is about a real fear that is within my community, that I have to make sure is calmed down.”
This article has been updated.