Martin Sheen Urged Malibu to Become a Sanctuary City, and They Listened

Lead Photo: Martin Sheen as President Josiah "Jed" Bartlet on 'The West Wing.' Photo: NBC/Getty Images
Martin Sheen as President Josiah "Jed" Bartlet on 'The West Wing.' Photo: NBC/Getty Images
Read more

Only about six percent of Malibu residents are Latino. But as one of the richest cities in Los Angeles County, Malibu – which is 92 percent white – depends heavily on immigrant labor. Last week, the city council voted to become a sanctuary city – something that’s actor Martin Sheen can take credit for. Back in December, Sheen attended a city council meeting to thank the members for standing in solidarity with the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe’s fight for clean water. In anticipation of Donald Trump’s presidency, he also urged the council to protect the undocumented community that formed an important part of the city.

“As we welcome the incoming members of the Malibu City Council, we want to express our sincere gratitude for the outgoing members for their service and we take special notice for their unanimous support for the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe’s opposition to the Dakota Access Pipeline at the meeting on November 28,” he said, according to Malibu Times. “In [light] of that heroic resolution, and the heightened level of fear gripping so much of our nation since Nov. 8, we urge the council adopt a resolution declaring the City of Malibu a sanctuary city.”

With a 3-2 vote, the council didn’t unanimously agree that the city should pass this resolution. Councilmen Jefferson Wagner and Rick Mullen opposed the move. Mullen framed it as an environmental issue in an insensitive piece for a local magazine. While he blamed immigrants for overpopulation, which would cause a stress on resources, nowhere in his article does he mention that the the wall Trump intends to build could have a drastic environmental impact or the fact that some scientists question whether there’s a negative link between immigration and the environment.

Of the few Malibu residents who spoke up during the meeting, most opposed becoming a sanctuary city, according to the Los Angeles Times. They complained that the resolution was merely symbolic and that it’d have no real effect on undocumented immigrants in the city. Trump has threatened to take away federal funds from cities that refuse to cooperate with Immigration and Customs Enforcement. But Malibu only stands to lose about $50,000. And because the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department already handled Malibu’s law enforcement, the city already doesn’t work with ICE agents.

For some undocumented immigrants, its a goodwill gesture that shows Malibu is standing behind them. Eric – who chose to remain anonymous – is an undocumented immigrant from Guatemala who’s lived in the United States for almost 20 years. He wakes up every day at 4:30 a.m. to make the trip from South LA to Malibu. “I feel more safe,” he said. “We can work without being worried. Who is going to take care of my kids if they deport me? What’s going to happen to them?”

Others, like 32-year-old Juan Escobar – who has lived in the US for 17 years – appreciate the support, but still feel fearful about the policies the Trump Administration wants to put in place that will hurt undocumented immigrants.

It’s obvious that Malibu feels split on sanctuary cities. And while it’s notable that they want to make immigrants feel welcome, the conversation about whether Malibu should become a sanctuary city revolves around the services that they provide. But immigrants are far more than what you see on the surface: they add richness to the fabric of the United States and no statistic can accurately assess their value.