A number of community groups spoke at Tuesday’s Oakland City Council meeting in support of a resolution calling on the federal government to extend Temporary Protected Status (TPS) to immigrants, and to create a path to permanent residency for those protected by the program that was recently eliminated by the Trump administration.
TPS provides temporary residency to immigrants from countries affected by war or natural disasters. Oakland community members spoke largely in favor of residency protections for Haitian and El Salvadoran immigrants, many of whom spoke during the public comment period.
“We are hardworking people, we are here with our family members, we pay our taxes,” said Maria Enriquez, a TPS recipient, speaking through a translator. “I’m here to ask for your help in creating a law to change the law so that our families can be protected.”
“A large proportion of TPS recipients are California residents,” said Oakland resident Sharon Rose, as a group of TPS recipients gathered behind her. “[These families] have had many children who are U.S. citizens. These young people now live in constant fear that they and their families will be ripped from the only countries they have ever known.”
The council unanimously passed a resolution demanding that the federal government extend TPS for at least 18 months, and support permanent residency for all people who qualify for the program. The resolution encourages California’s senators to fight for the extension, and to fight for legislation that will provide TPS holders with permanent residency.
The Trump administration announced in January that they would end TPS for recipients from Haiti, El Salvador, Nicaragua and Sudan. Immigrants from six other countries currently receive a protected status, but the administration has not indicated whether it will end the program for those recipients as well.
Councilmember Abel Guillen (District 2), spoke in favor of the resolution, emphasizing the economic contributions of TPS recipients. “If the federal government moves forward with [ending TPS], it’s going to have a real economic impact,” Guillen said.
The council also addressed a resolution that urged the Alameda County District Attorney to reduce—or dismiss entirely—past convictions for people facing charges for possession of marijuana, after the adult use of marijuana was legalized in California thanks to Proposition 64.
Currently, people who have recently been arrested on marijuana-related charges can petition to have those past offenses removed from their records. This resolution urges the district attorney to apply Proposition 64 retroactively to marijuana-related cases, meaning that people no longer have to petition to have their records cleared, and marijuana-related offenses would be removed automatically.
Oakland resident John Jones III spoke in favor of the resolution, stating that he wants to remove barriers to reintegrating formerly incarcerated people into the community. “Let us continue to be a vanguard for social justice,” Jones said. “I strongly encourage you to adopt this resolution.”
Councilmember Dan Kalb (District 1) said this was a strong resolution, and that he was proud to support it, after which it was approved by the council.
A group of about 15 people spoke during the public comment period, expressing their dissatisfaction with specific elements of a resolution to create an Oakland Police Commission, a Community Policing Advisory Board, and to establish a civilian inspector general. The Community Policing Advisory Board would present an annual report to the Police Commission, while the civilian inspector general– which is independent from the Oakland Police Department –would report to the Community Policing Advisory Board.
Speakers were upset over a move to give the city administrator the power to hire or fire the civilian inspector general, and a number of other staff. City councilmember-at-large Rebecca Kaplan summed up the issue, declaring that permitting the city administrator to have hiring and firing power “undermines the whole point” of a community-led advisory board.
“We voted to make the police commission independent, not dependent,” said Oakland resident Cathy Leonard during the public comment period. She claimed the city administrator’s office was trying to “assert the power of city council,” calling it “outrageous.”
Jones referred to the Black Panthers, and their struggle against police brutality. “Five decades ago they were talking about police brutality, we’re still talking about it now.” Jones said. “We’ve got to take this more seriously. We’ve got to redeem the reputation of our city … to make sure the people feel safe.”
Councilmember Noel Gallo (District 5) said he agrees that the inspector general should report to the commission, not the city administrator, but that he would support the resolution because he didn’t want to delay it any longer.
After extended debate, council temporarily suspended the vote on this item to remove wording that changes who the inspector general will report to. A new document was released later in the evening that removed this wording.
“Every time we create policy here at the dais, things do not go well,” said Councilmember Annie Campbell-Washington (District 4) of the revisions to the resolution, stating that she would not support the revisions that had been made during the council meeting.
The council voted to submit the proposed legislation to the police commission, which will have 45 days to review it. It will then return to city council for a vote. Campbell-Washington was the only abstention on the vote.
Several people signed up to speak on a resolution to extend a 180-day moratorium on use of the substantial rehabilitation exemption to the city’s Rent Adjustment Program, also known as rent control, with many asking council to remove the exemption entirely. The substantial rehabilitation clause exempts properties from rent control if extensive construction is being done to rebuild the property. But it is currently under a moratorium, meaning landlords cannot use this exemption.
A small crowd of supporters of the moratorium stood in the back of the room, holding signs reading: “Displacement is violence,” “No rent hikes,” and “Rent control makes more sense.”
“I’m already paying an exorbitant amount for this rent-controlled property,” said Oakland resident Kendra Edwards, during the public comment period. “It’s already unaffordable for most families … in West Oakland.”
Kaplan spoke to the issue, stating that while an additional 180 days would go into effect for the moratorium, during that time that the loophole would not be used “to abuse more tenants,” meaning that the substantial rehabilitation rule will not be in effect while the council debates the issue over the next 180 days. Kaplan also said she believes the substantial rehabilitation loophole should be “deleted.”
The council voted unanimously to extend the moratorium.