by Julia Wick
Life in Trump's America continues to create new battle lines here in California, where a "sanctuary state" bill aimed at strengthening the divide between immigration officials and local law enforcement has drawn opposition from the Los Angeles County Sheriff.
Several hundred protesters rallied outside of downtown's Hall of Justice, which houses the Sheriff's Department, Wednesday evening to show their opposition to Sheriff Jim McDonnell's position on the bill. The demonstration, which was organized by the National Day Laborer Organizing Network, the ACLU, LA Voice and SEIU, included representatives from labor and religious groups. A group of instrumentalists played cumbia music, leading the crowd in chants of "Up, up with liberation, down, down with deportation," and other slogans.
SB 54, as the sanctuary state bill is formally known, was introduced to the state legislature by Senate President Pro Tem Kevin de León in December. The bill would prevent the use of state and local resources for federal immigration enforcement action and sharply limit the ability of local law enforcement jurisdictions to cooperate with federal immigration officials, much like the policies that already exist in Los Angeles. The bill has widespread support from local leaders, including Mayor Eric Garcetti, Los Angeles County Supervisors Hilda Solis and Sheila Kuehl, and local and state activist groups
McDonnell voiced his opposition to the bill in a letter to de León last week, arguing that it would hinder law enforcement and ultimately hurt communities. Specifically, McDonnell said that by blocking jail officials from transferring custody of inmates charged with immigration violations to immigration agents, the bill would force those agents to go "into our communities in order to search out and find the person they seek,” according to the L.A. Times. The L.A. Sheriff's Department is responsible for overseeing the county's jail system.
“SB 54 would not allow the safe transfer of custody; rather it would force immigration enforcement agents into our communities in order to search out and find the person they seek,” McDonnell said. “While doing this, they will most surely cast a wide net over our communities, apprehending and detaining those not originally the target of the enforcement actions.”
Mario Fuentes, a community organizer with LA Voice, told LAist last week that he considers McDonnell’s opposition “part of an orchestrated campaign to spread fear and garner opposition,” claiming his statements are “nice lines to try and convince those who aren’t familiar with the issue.” Fuentes expressed his disappointment, saying “all [the communities] want is for the sheriff not to participate in the deportation machine.”
Pastor Carlos Rincon of Centro de Vida Victoriosa Church, a Pentecostal congregation in East Los Angeles, voiced similar sentiments. "Most of the members of my congregation are first generation Hispanics," Rincon, who took part in the protest, told LAist earlier on Wednesday. According to Rincon, the perception that the Sheriff was cooperating with ICE was already exacerbating fears in the community.
"People are afraid even to go to the store," Rincon said, adding that one of his parishioners had told him on Sunday that she was thinking of closing her small business. "They take their kids to school but they don't come out because they are afraid."
Speaking to the crowd Wednesday evening, National Day Laborer Organizing Network director Pablo Alvarado said that he thought the group would be effective in conveying their message to the Sheriff. "I think we will be able to touch his heart and mind," Alvarado said. "As we speak out here, there are people talking to him inside."