Bay Area Rapid Transit, which operates mass transit in the San Francisco area, reassured riders Thursday that it won’t conduct immigration raids on board its vehicles or target people seeking a job with the agency.
The transit agency’s board passed a resolution that prohibits the use of its funds or resources to enforce federal immigration law. The measure, called the Safe Transit Policy, bans employees from seeking riders’ immigration status, limits the cooperation of employees with federal authorities in conducting immigration checks and arrests, and prevents BART from asking job applicants about their immigration status.
BART joins transit agencies in Chicago and in Portland, Oregon, in reassuring riders that employees won’t enforce immigration laws or lead raids.
The BART resolution was first introduced by board member Nick Josefowitz. It was co-sponsored by Lateefah Simon, who campaigned for the position in November on a platform that safe access to transportation is an issue of social and economic justice.
Encountering Immigrations Customs Enforcement can take a physical and emotional toll on people’s health, Alameda Public Defender Raha Jorjani argued in support of the resolution during a hearing Thursday at BART’s Oakland headquarters.
“We’re talking about the health, well-being and civility of families,” Jorjani said. “In the Bay Area, specifically, our office has noticed a distinct rise in the presence and enforcement of ICE operations. There are few spaces left that are safe, and a space that is as important as BART simply must be one of them.”
Those concerns aren’t completely unfounded. In February, rumors spread online that ICE had set up checkpoints throughout the East Bay, including one outside a BART station, though authorities later said those claims were false.
Similar online rumors swirled in Chicago and the greater Portland, Oregon, area earlier this year, and authorities reacted by reassuring riders that transit employees would not enforce immigration laws.
“We do not participate in or support this type of activity,” the Chicago Transit Authority said in a statement in February. “It’s important to us that everyone, no matter who they are, how they identify, or where they’re from feel comfortable and confident riding transit in Chicago: You are welcome here.”
Oregon’s TriMet transit agency announced a no-raid policy the same month.
“We do not support targeting any of our riders or any members of our community. Period,” TriMet said in a statement. “We deeply regret that these fast-spreading rumors have caused concerns about TriMet and the safety of our riders.”
BART’s resolution reaffirms the region’s leadership on progressive immigration policies in the face of President Donald Trump’s vows to boost deportations and enact hard-line immigration policies.
In April, a federal court in San Francisco ruled that the Trump administration cannot withhold federal funds from so-called sanctuary cities ― local jurisdictions, including San Francisco, that limit cooperation with federal authorities in immigration law enforcement.