SAN PABLO—Before a vote was passed allowing local law enforcement noncooperation with federal immigration agents, Marisol Contreras described a common fear.
She started off by saying “oh think of me as your mother, or as your daughter or your niece or your grandmother and that you don’t want me to leave,… imagine if I was taken away from you by Immigration Customs Enforcement (ICE) or how it would feel if certain members of your family suddenly left,” while addressing the council during March 6’s city hall meeting.
“I felt like I needed to speak, to be the voice of others that are not willing or can’t speak or are afraid to… [I] wanted to give them another story, I know there were a lot of parents there but a different point of view coming from a younger generation [could] impact them,” said Contreras, a middle college high school student.
More than 20 speakers voiced their concerns urging mayor Cecilia Valdez along with other councilors to amend a resolution regarding ICE authority and the role of San Pablo Police Department when enforcing federal immigration laws.
After extensive public comment was made for resolution 2007-056-Comprehensive Immigration Reform and Federal Immigration Enforcement, the council voted 4 to 1 vote to change the policy with Valdez, vice mayor Genoveva Calloway, councilmen Arturo Cruz and Paul Morris in favor of, and Rich Kinney against.
“Under this (current) policy the city council continues to resolve the enforcement of immigration laws as a federal matter and as stewards of the taxpayer’s money, it is not the role of city government to participate in this federal enforcement,” city manager Matt Rodriguez said.
Following discussion during a safety committee meeting on Jan. 31, the council discussed the current policy and considered an amended introduction to it, tabling it for Monday’s meeting.
This was in direct response in the wake of President Trump’s executive order, Enhancing Public Safety in the Interior of the United States, which was issued on Jan. 25, Rodriguez said.
“Today we face an upsurge of extreme conservatism, of nationalism, of xenophobia, of racism coasted as law and order,” said American Civil Liberties Union representative Antonio Medrano.
“We ask you to join the cities of El Cerrito, Richmond, San Francisco, Oakland, the community college system, Los Medanos, Diablo Valley, and Contra Costa College, the UC system…in noncooperation with ICE,” he also said.
Rodriguez said the state legislature has introduced several bills regarding immigration enforcement and reporting, specifically SB 54 sponsored by Sen. Kevin De Leon, introduced as the California Values Act to address immigration issues facing many Californian communities.
“In that legislation, if adopted by the California Legislature and subsequently signed into law by Gov. Jerry Brown may impact your current resolution under consideration, if it becomes a new state law,” Rodriguez said.
Councilman Kinney said he was more partial toward hearing both sides of the immigration argument and stressed the importance of federal funds and how a conflict could arise, following this type of decision.
“We get a lot of funding from the [federal] government,” Kinney said.
Fellow councilor Morris tried to clarify the executive order by specifying that only undocumented immigrants with criminal offenses would be targeted.
“I want to thank you for bringing this resolution for discussion tonight in these moments of great anguish and anxiety; we require not only support from the city but also your protection,” said Gabriela Hernandez, a San Pablo resident.
Maria Alaquiera, vice chair of the West County Regional Group brought to light, what many of the immigrant community are feeling as a result of the current presidential administration’s rhetoric.
“We need to be protected against the discrimination and racism that is very present in our county right now.”
“We ask you as our elected officials to understand that the new administration has caused tremendous trauma in our communities,” Alaquiera said.
“Recent executive orders are causing anxiety, fear and frustration in our community,” she also said.
Medrano said, “We defend as we say in Spanish, ‘Los derechos de todos’ that’s our primarily concern.” “Whether you’re a citizen or not, everyone has rights.”
San Pablo resident Jan Poniter agreed with Medrano’s sentiments.
“It is a very scary time for an awful lot of people in this community and I think it is incumbent upon the city council to strongly state that they support our residents, every one of them,” Poniter said.
Contreras wanted the city politicians to envision her as a loved one to solidify her message.
“I wanted [them] to view me as family because this community is a family and family is supposed to have each other’s back,” she said.
With the vote’s outcome decided by the end of the session, the council’s decision was met with thunderous applause and cheers of “Si Se Puede” from the audience.
Hernandez said, “I know that a resolution cannot change everything but it sends an important message, that this city does not tolerate any hatred or discrimination, thank you.”