BART offers safe space for immigrant riders

Just like what the posters say inside BART cars, BART directors on Thursday approved a policy that welcomes everyone on board the transit system.

Directors voted 8-1 to adopt the Safe Transit Policy that declares BART’s commitment to keep the transit system safe, secure, inviting and inclusive for all riders no matter what race, religion affiliations, gender, sexual orientation or immigration status.

Going back to #SF.

A post shared by Jerold Chinn (@jeroldwashere) on

BART board Director Lateefah Simon, who co-authored the policy, said she hopes the policy will help riders feel less afraid especially when talking to BART employees or law enforcement when reporting crimes on the transit system:

“We are all each other’s neighbors and our system is safer when we can call look after one another.”

Simon added:

“Singling out one segment of our ridership puts our system in a hole.”

The policy will prohibit BART to use of any funds or resources to help enforce any immigration laws and prohibit employees from asking a rider about their immigration status, except as required by federal or state law, or by court order.

It would also forbid BART Police from releasing information regarding the release status, date and time of any individual in custody, except as required by federal or state law, or by court order.

Arturo Fernandez, an undocumented doctoral student at UC Berkeley, said that approving the policy will show BART’s commitment and willingness to support a community that is under attack:

“You might not know it, but today you have the potential to do something great, to help undocumented families, to make them feel better that someone is listening.”

The policy does stop short of calling it a sanctuary policy so the transit agency would not jeopardize federal funding,

Director Debora Allen was the dissenting vote. Allen said she did not support the portion of the policy that stated BART will not use a federal verification program to determine if a potential employee or subcontractor can legally work in the U.S.:

“I would not want to embroil our employees in a battle with the federal government over the process of hiring and put them at risk for unknown violations.”

Allen added that she did not think the policy adds anymore protections to undocumented immigrants that already exists currently.

BART’s Chief of Police Carlos Rojas said he did not find any documentation of police officers asking riders about their immigration status.

There was one incident more than five years ago where officers did arrest someone with an immigration warrant, said Rojas.