BELLFLOWER — Mayor James Earle Christo said the city's recent resolution condemning efforts to have any portion of Los Angeles County declared a sanctuary for political refugees was done in hopes of "creating a mushrooming effect, forcing other cities to take a stand" on the issue.
Though Bellflower has mailed copies to 435 cities statewide and to some individual county and state officials, there has been no groundswell of reaction to the Dec. 16 resolution, which passed 4 to 0 with one abstention.
"We wanted to let them know where Bellflower stands," said the mayor, whose city has about 56,000 residents.
The resolution states in part " . . . the Bellflower City Council generally support efforts designed to encourage legislation for a fair and humane immigration law."
However, the council " . . . generally oppose(s) efforts to have local governments declared sanctuaries for illegal aliens," the resolution says.
Response to L. A. Vote
Christo said the resolution was in response to a Los Angeles City Council resolution passed in November that declared the city a haven for political refugees. The Los Angeles resolution, which passed by an 8-6 vote, asks city employees not to voluntarily provide federal authorities with information regarding the immigration status of undocumented aliens. In December, Mayor Tom Bradley endorsed the policy.
Los Angeles City Councilman Ernani Bernardi announced last week that he plans to launch a petition drive to give Los Angeles voters the opportunity to vote upon and reject the resolution. The county Board of Supervisors on a 3-2 vote in December also opposed the Los Angeles City Council measure.
Bellflower Vice Mayor Joseph Cvetko said he supported the Bellflower resolution because "we were elected to uphold the law, not break it. It is totally wrong for officials to support breaking the law and we are taking them to task."
Bellflower Councilman Ray O'Neal, who abstained from voting on the resolution, said he did so because "it wasn't our problem. The city doesn't have an illegal-aliens problem. I can't believe they (other councilmen) would do this. This isn't a city issue."
"Los Angeles doesn't need us to tell them how to run things. It is none of our business," O'Neal added.
No Opinion From Carpenter
Reaction from others, however, has been slow in materializing.
State Sen. Paul B. Carpenter (D-Cypress) is one official who did reply to Bellflower--but only to say he had received the resolution. Carpenter, whose district includes Bellflower, said last week that he had taken no position on the matter and that Bellflower was the only municipality in his 13-city district that he had heard from on the sanctuary matter.
Taking issue with the Bellflower position was the Rev. Fernando Santillana, pastor of Pico Rivera United Methodist Church. The church has served as a sanctuary for more than three years for Central Americans fleeing civil war, torture and death, Santillana said. He called the Bellflower resolution "sad."
"It shows a lack of Christian responsibility for our neighbors," Santillana said in an interview Thursday. "The question of sanctuary should not be a political question. It is a religious response."
Cvetko said he believed it was a political question and politicians who supported sanctuaries were merely doing so "for the Hispanic vote."
Cvetko added, "Churches are not above the law."
Santillana said the sanctuary movement, which his congregation supports, "is based on God's will and those seeking safety should receive it."