OAKLAND — Calling immigration the civil rights issue of this generation, Mayor Ron Dellums vowed Wednesday that Oakland would remain a sanctuary for immigrants and that no city employee or police officer would participate in federal immigration raids.

Sharing the spotlight with City Council President Ignacio De La Fuente for the first time since taking office, Dellums called on the federal government to put a moratorium on the raids that have created "fear and unrest" in Oakland's Latino community and throughout the Bay Area.

"We cannot allow our citizens to be harassed, abused and intimidated by anyone," Dellums said in outlining his plan.

Dellums also urged the federal government to adopt a "comprehensive and compassionate" plan that establishes a clear path to citizenship for immigrants.

In addition to Dellums' measure, De La Fuente said he would introduce a resolution reaffirming and updating a 1986 measure declaring Oakland a "City of Refuge." Currently, it applies only to political refugees from South Africa, Haiti, El Salvador and Nicaragua, but it will be changed to cover illegal immigrants from any country.

However, neither the mayor nor the council has authority to stop federal agents from conducting raids in Oakland.

"We are in absolute unity," Dellums said, referring to De La Fuente, whom he defeated in the mayoral election last June.

Both measures are expected to be submitted to the council in the coming weeks, officials said.


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Despite the city's policy against local enforcement of civil immigration laws, Dellums' order will permit Oakland police to cooperate with federal officials in investigations involving public safety and serious crimes.

Police Chief Wayne Tucker said the department hoped the city's refusal to help the federal government conduct immigration raids would encourage more people to come forward and report crimes and cooperate with investigations. Police are not interested in the immigration status of victims or witnesses, Tucker said.

A police analysis of crime trends in 2006 found that immigrants were increasingly being targeted by robbers and other criminals because they are thought to carry large amounts of cash and rarely go to the police.

Oakland's officers are required to tell federal officials when they have arrested an illegal immigrant but otherwise play no role in the enforcement of deportation orders and other federal immigration laws, Tucker said.

Dellums and De La Fuente, whose Glenview-Fruitvale district is heavily Latino, were spurred to act by the arrest on Friday of 13 illegal immigrants working for an East Oakland plastic bag manufacturer whose customers include the U.S. government.

U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials said an audit found that 47 of Eagle Bag Corp.'s 70 workers had submitted counterfeit immigration documents with bogus alien registration numbers.

Philip Wang, owner of the company, said nearly 40 employees haven't shown up for work since the arrests, leaving his company in a desperate situation. He attended the news conference Wednesday on the steps of City Hall in an effort to ask Dellums and De La Fuente for help.

"We are right in the middle, and we don't know what to do," Wang said, adding that his company needed skilled workers not readily available in Oakland.

Eagle Bag tried to comply with hiring laws and isn't facing any charges, ICE reported.

Since May 2006, raids by federal agents have swept cities throughout the country, with arrests locally in San Francisco, San Rafael and Richmond. Federal officials said they were seeking those who were in the country illegally and had ignored deportation orders or those who had committed crimes.

However, the raids have also captured legal immigrants and citizens, and left families afraid to send their children to school or to even leave home for work, for fear they would not return.

Karen Garcia, a freshman at Fremont High School, said the raids had prompted a wave of fear and panic in her neighborhood.

"The raids are racist," said Garcia, one of the student organizers of the walkout, march and rally on May 1 as part of the National Day of Action for Immigrant Rights. 

On Sunday, San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom said his city also would continue to be a sanctuary for immigrants, adding that city employees would not aid federal immigration officials.