Expert says Santa Monica’s declaration of support for the undocumented has some holes in it

By Beige Luciano-Adams

USC Immigration Clinic Director Niels Frenzen

A recent city resolution expressing support for diversity and outlining (non-)cooperation with federal immigration authorities sounds potent: Another act of resistance from this progressive enclave within a progressive enclave.

But, like Los Angeles, Santa Monica stops short of declaring Sanctuary City status — even as political pressure builds for a more forceful rebuke of plans to escalate deportations and enlist local police officers to help.

President Trump has vowed to cut federal funding to states and cities that give him agita, but some experts suggest the issue could be more about political blowback for ambitious local leaders than financial deprivation of their constituents. Sanctuary City status detractors, meanwhile, point to the term’s lack of legal clarity and consistent meaning.

Just this week, the “Sanctuary” bill by state Senate President Pro Tem Kevin de León (D-Los Angeles), which would prohibit communication with federal immigration authorities, cleared a major hurdle in the Legislature despite strong opposition from Sheriff’s departments. And don’t forget the little guy: On Monday, the Malibu City Council cast a divisive vote (3-2) in favor of Sanctuary City status.

How does Santa Monica’s Feb. 28 resolution stack up?

“Overall, this would not be seen as one of the more progressive statements,” said USC Law School professor Niels Frenzen, director of the USC Immigration Clinic.

The Santa Monica resolution prohibits the use of city resources to “investigate, question, detect, apprehend, detain or register” individuals who may be in violation of civil provisions of federal immigration law, which Frenzen says “seems to have some teeth to it.”

But he expects confusion about other sections of the resolution will deepen after California adopts its new response to federal immigration enforcement.

The city’s resolution vows not to use resources in support of federal programs requiring “unlawful or unconstitutional” registration or detention on the basis of religious affiliation, race, national or ethnic origin, gender, sexual identity or orientation — or to share any collected data that contains this information.

“The way I read that,” said Frenzen, “is if it’s lawful to share information — including information about immigration status — it would seem this resolution would say that’s fine.”

Another provision appears to prohibit a 287G Agreement, in which the federal government can deputize local police to enforce federal immigration laws, but Frenzen says it isn’t clear whether Santa Monica would refuse to share data with the Dept. of Homeland Security in the absence of such an agreement.

Before Trump was even sworn in, SMPD reaffirmed commitment to its well-established policy of not enforcing immigration violations.

But Chicago seems to be making more functional use of its Sanctuary City status by minimizing cooperation with the feds and refusing to allow ICE into local jails.

“Some local jurisdictions are going much further,” Frenzen said. Whether that will mean anything “in the real world,” he admits, is another matter.

Marathon Road Closures

Santa Monica is once again the finish line for the L.A. Marathon, so look out for closures of San Vicente Boulevard and Ocean Avenue on Sunday. Find all your race day info, including a helpful map, at

Bergamot Station Diaspora

Following the late December sale of the privately owned parcel of Bergamot Station, many galleries have been in limbo as they try to guess the intentions of elusive new owner RedCar Properties Ltd.

Corey Grayhorse, manager of dnj Gallery, described a rude awakening in which the development company toured prospective tenants through the space.

“They started saying, ‘We can tear this wall down, move the kitchen, put office spaces here.’ I listened. After showing the back storage room I asked, ‘What do you think you’re doing with the space?’ She said, ‘We’re turning it into offices.’”

RedCar’s rep denied this was the case, calling it a “mistake,” and they eventually emailed the gallery owner affirming there is nothing wrong with their present lease, Grayhorse said.

But “it was highly awkward,” he said. “We’re just paying rent and staying quiet until something else happens.”

Hiromi Katayama, whose handmade paper store Hiromi Paper Inc. has been at Bergamot for 18 years, recently left to set up shop in Culver City near the foot of the Baldwin Hills Scenic Overlook.

“Our rent was raised 40%,” Katayama said, adding the hike came out of nowhere. “Since the sale we have no information from the new owner, no introduction, no conversation – we just got the bill for January, with rent already going up. That, to me, is like an insult. We are not interested in working with those people.”

A 1920s portrait of silent film actress Marion Davies

Bring History to Life

The beachfront estate that William Randolph Hearst built for actress Marion Davies, now the Annenberg Community Beach House, was once home to a Roaring ’20s glitterati party scene.

Now the city is looking for docents to “bring history to life” at the Marion Davies Guest House. Training for volunteers happens at the Santa Monica Conservancy from 3 to 5 p.m. on April 22, April 29 and May 6. Sign up via