Trump declares war on California’s sanctuaries
and look at the latest anti-immigrant volleys of the Trump administration--and how we can defend our immigrant brothers and sisters.
ESCALATING THE attack on immigrant communities and anyone who would stand with the undocumented, the Trump administration announced in March that it would sue the state of California for providing legal sanctuary to undocumented immigrants.
The threats to sue California and other states loomed over Trump's first presidential visit to the border between Mexico and California to inspect a prototype for his border wall.
In a typically absurd tweet on his way to California on March 13, Trump declared: "California's sanctuary policies are illegal and unconstitutional and put the safety and security of our entire nation at risk. Thousands of dangerous and violent criminal aliens are released as a result of sanctuary policies, set free to prey on innocent Americans. THIS MUST STOP."
Days earlier, Attorney General Jeff Sessions also visited California--using his appearance at a law enforcement gathering to formally announce a lawsuit against the state, Gov. Jerry Brown and California Attorney General Xavier Becerra. Specifically, they are accused of interfering with federal immigration activities through three state laws that limit the enforcement of federal immigration law.
Sessions claimed at a March 7 press conference that sanctuary laws are the result of "radical extremists" promoting "open borders" in a "plain violation of common sense."
Among other things, the three California laws that the Justice Department is targeting: allow the state to review conditions in facilities where immigrants are being detained by federal officials; limit law enforcement cooperation with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE); prevent the transfer of immigrants from local jails directly into federal custody without a warrant; prevent employers from giving ICE agents access to "nonpublic areas" of a workplace during raids; and mandate that employers must notify employees within 72 hours of getting a notice of inspection of their files from ICE.
According to the Trump administration, these laws violate the supremacy of the federal government--an ironic claim, considering conservatives' cries of "states' rights" when it comes to placing limits on guns, for example.
At least five other states--in addition to hundreds of cities--have sanctuary laws. Sessions had earlier threatened to cut off federal funding to cities and states that refuse to cooperate with federal raids or other aspects of immigration policy.
SESSIONS' ANNOUNCEMENT came just one week after ICE conducted raids throughout Northern California.
Dubbed "Operation Keep Safe"--a nod to the Trump administration lie that "dangerous" undocumented immigrants are overrunning America--the raids began on February 28 and lasted for four days, during which time ICE agents detained a reported 232 immigrants in San Francisco, Bay Point, Sacramento and Stockton, among other areas.
Supporters of immigrant rights had plans in place for an emergency response. In San Francisco, the Immigration Liberation Movement along with FREE SF, Bay Resistance and the California Immigrant Youth Justice Alliance called an emergency rally in front of the San Francisco ICE offices.
Through social media and Bay Resistance's Rapid Response text messaging system, more than 500 people were mobilized for a February 28 rally, sending the message that we want ICE out of California.
Dozens of immigrants rights activists blockaded the garages to San Francisco's ICE headquarters, wearing signs stating "#Sanctuary For All" and holding banners reading "No Ban, No Raids, No Wall."
The protesters were joined by San Francisco State University students, and the crowd chanted, "No ban, no wall, no raids--end the deportations" and listened to speakers demanding justice for the dozens of people being swept up by ICE.
"We're here to stand for justice and due process for all people," said Anand Singh, president of UNITE HERE Local 2, which represents largely immigrant service-sector workers. Singh added that Oakland, San Francisco and California were on the "right side of history" for protecting immigrants.
Organizers said that ICE specifically used tactics designed to increase fear in the immigrant community and prevent those who were detained from receiving due process by refusing to provide attorneys who cane to the San Francisco ICE office with information about specific detainees and deportation proceedings.
Though ICE officials denied it, the Rapid Response Network of Northern California told the Mercury News that ICE transferred some detainees to detention facilities outside Northern California, "making it extremely difficult for attorneys and family members to access these immigrants."
Another protest was held in Contra Costa, where the immigrant rights group Community Initiatives for Visiting Immigrants in Confinement (CIVIC) last year documented abuses of female immigrant detainees at Richmond's West Contra Costa Jail. In retaliation, sheriff's department officials banned CIVIC from entering the jail because of supposed violation of jail policies.
IN A statement about the raids, ICE Deputy Director Thomas Homan said, "Sanctuary jurisdictions like San Francisco and Oakland shield dangerous criminal aliens from federal law enforcement at the expense of public safety."
But Homan had nothing to say about the lack of safety of immigrants when they encounter law enforcement.
Like 19-year-old Jesus Delgado, an undocumented immigrant who came to the U.S. from Mexico as a child. On March 6, Delgado was killed--the first victim of an officer-involved shooting in San Francisco's Mission District in 2018--after police surrounded him, claiming he was a suspect in a robbery.
Meanwhile, the Trump administration has refused to extend the Deferred Action on Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program--which protected some undocumented immigrant youth who were brought the U.S. as children.
This highlights the truth about the ICE raids. They don't protect communities from dangerous criminals, but are designed to instill fear and send a message that immigrants should live in the shadows.
No other reason can explain, for example, the October detention of Fernando Carrillo--a San Jose father of three from Mexico who was picked up as he dropped off his daughter at daycare.
As Carrillo's wife Lourdes Barraza told KTVU news at a protest in late February against her husband's detention, "Certain laws are inhumane. Slavery was once the law."
FOLLOWING THE Northern California raids, federal officials went on the attack against Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf. The Democrat had tweeted the day before the raids that an ICE operation was imminent in the Bay Area.
Administration officials have since repeatedly blamed Schaaf for ICE's failure to arrest hundreds more immigrants during the raids. Justice Department officials recently announced that they are investigating whether Schaaf obstructed justice and should be charged with a crime.
Schaaf was right to expose the planned raids, in addition to affirming that Oakland wouldn't cooperate with raids generally--and other state officials should be pressured to follow suit.
But Schaaf would not have acted as she did had immigrant rights activists not pressed public officials to stand up against the vicious anti-immigrant offensive of the federal government--for example, by pressuring the Oakland mayor and city council after it came to light that Oakland police acted as traffic officers for ICE raids in West Oakland last year.
Likewise, Gov. Jerry Brown pushed back against the Trump administration's attack on California's sanctuary laws. But these measures came about only after months of sustained organizing by immigrant rights activists, including rallies, marches and an occupation of Brown's office.
Brown eventually signed the bill, but only after playing up the concerns of law enforcement officials as an excuse to water down the legislation.
Nevertheless, Schaaf's public show of defiance won support from an unexpected quarter.
James Schwab, a spokesman for the San Francisco Division of ICE, resigned in protest, saying that Sessions and other administration officials were lying when they claimed that more than "800 wanted criminals are now at large" because of Schaaf's actions.
Schwab said that when he asked officials to change the information about "800 wanted criminals" being at large, they told him to "deflect" instead.
In other words, government officials asked an ICE spokesperson to knowingly spread false information that could lead to an escalation of anti-immigrant prejudice or worse.
WITH THE Trump administration signaling a further escalation of its attack on immigrants and our communities, supporters of immigrant rights will have to continue to resist however possible.
We need to mobilize for emergency actions in response to raids and deportations, while building the larger fight for immigrant rights, in particular around demands like support for a "clean" DREAM Act. Walkouts and protests--like those that occurred in November with undocumented youth taking the lead--can spread the word.
At a local level, activist organizations are holding trainings to help immigrant families put plans in place if a family member is detained. On March 17, Bay Resistance is holding a mass training on this and other subjects at Oakland Tech High School, starting at 10 a.m.
Pressure must be kept up at the local level to make sure law enforcement officials adhere to sanctuary policies--and face real consequences if they violate them. We should also demand increased funding for services, including legal services for immigrants facing arrest and deportation.
With no end in sight to the Trump administration's attack on immigrants, the need to defend our immigrant brothers and sisters remains urgent.