A huge crowd energized to oppose President Donald Trump’s immigration policies descended on Santa Rosa City Hall Tuesday urging city leaders to declare the city a sanctuary for those living here without documentation despite the administration’s threat of federal funding cuts for cities that fail to cooperate with immigration agents.
“We’re talking about families, workers in vineyards, restaurants and service industries, schoolchildren and grandparents,” said Chaney Delaire. “We’re talking about people who are part of our community, who pay taxes and provide services.”
“In my 56 years as an immigrant from Mexico, I have never ever felt as welcome as I do today, and I want to thank you for being here,” Olivares said.
The council voted unanimously to take up the matter of whether to declare the city a sanctuary, or a similar term such as “welcoming city,” at next Tuesday’s council meeting, virtually the earliest date council procedures allow.
It also directed city staff to detail the implications of such a move for the city’s finances, relationship with federal agencies and law enforcement practices.
Much like the Women’s March, most of those who came to the meeting, many wearing red clothing, said they were mobilized by calls to action on social media.
Much of the organizing was done through Facebook by a group called Community Action Coalition.
Quenby Dolgushkin, 28, wore a red knit cap and held up a sign that captured the sentiment of many in the audience, which spilled into the courtyard and overflow room: “No Human is Illegal. Santa Rosa Sanctuary Now.”
City Manager Sean McGlynn kicked off the meeting with a statement extolling the valuable role immigrants have played in state history, the city’s commitment to diversity and the police department policy toward immigration status. He said there are about 29,000 undocumented immigrants in Sonoma County.
“I want to assure our entire community that Santa Rosa police officers do not engage in law enforcement action based on a person’s immigration status alone and we have no plans to change this longstanding policy,” McGlynn said. “Nothing about the president’s executive order will change how our police officers protect and serve all of our residents.”
And yet Trump’s proposal to bar residents of seven majority-Muslim counties for 90 days and block the admission of refugees for 120 days appears to have confirmed people’s fears that he intends to make good on campaign promises many assumed were bluster.
Mayor Chris Coursey said it was now clear Trump’s remarks should be taken literally, and local communities need to take a closer look at how they can protect vulnerable residents.
Just how much control the city wields over what occurs within its borders, however, is less than clear, and Councilman John Sawyer said he worried people were overestimating the city’s ability to protect undocumented residents.
It was Sawyer who, not long after Trump was elected, acknowledged the anxiety many residents were feeling, but stressed he was not declaring the city a sanctuary.
He now says he worried such a declaration might give people “the impression that we can essentially keep certain government entities away from our border.
“I think the word sanctuary suggests something that it may not be,” Sawyer said.
And while Santa Rosa police maintain they don’t act on immigration status alone, Christy Lubin, director of the Graton Labor Center, said that doesn’t mean people arrested by them aren’t getting deported by Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents after spending time in the Sonoma County Jail.
“ICE is still very active in this county,” Lubin said.
Several council members said they thought the city might support SB 54, the bill proposed by Senate leader Kevin de León,D-Los Angeles, to establish “safe zones” for immigrants in the country illegally.
The bill would require California schools, hospitals and courthouses to limit immigration enforcement on their premises.