San Mateo County supervisors voted last week to stop using taxpayer resources to assist U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents in their quest to deport undocumented people who, regardless of their immigration status, are human beings worthy of community support. While that may not be a surprise in the liberal Bay Area, it might surprise you to know there is opposition to the ordinance as written and some of it comes from ardent champions of Coastside immigrants.
The ordinance passed 4-1 and the lone dissenter was Supervisor Ray Mueller, who represents the coast and is keenly aware of the prevailing inclination to protect farmworkers and others who might be in the U.S. without legal documentation. He says he supports the concept, but that the ordinance needs to carve out some exceptions. Specifically, Mueller would have the county cooperate with ICE when it comes to convicted murderers, rapists and child molesters.
Which is where it gets interesting. No one has ever been voted out of office for coming down hard on murderers, rapists and child molesters. But around here at least, no one has ever been voted out of office for opposing Gestapo tactics of ICE either. That dichotomy has caused divisions among well-meaning people who have impeccable credentials with our immigrant populations.
A letter signed by Puente Executive Director Rita Mancera, who serves farmworkers and others in southern San Mateco County, penned a letter co-signed by about 60 social justice groups active in the Bay Area. She denounces any cooperation with federal immigration officials who she says undermine relations between local authorities and immigrants and terrorize communities. There are other people active with local immigrant populations, notably Half Moon Bay City Councilman Joaquin Jimenez, who say that view discounts the trauma felt by victims of these most loathsome crimes. Jimenez says Latino people he represents demand that everyone respect the law, as they don’t want to be terrorized by brazen criminals any more than they want to be visited by jackbooted government agents.
While the two viewpoints might seem irreconcilable, they both result from a broken immigration policy that leaves local officials to protect marginalized communities who are victimized by crime and the government. Thoughtful people have come to different conclusions about sanctuary policies in general and this one in particular.
On balance, we think the greater good comes from taking a stand for families and against irrational federal policy that changes from administration to administration and has repeatedly victimized untold families throughout the county. No one wants to live among murderers, child abusers and rapists, of any color or nationality. But they number in the handful, whereas hundreds of Coastsiders live in constant fear of ICE agents swooping in in the dead of night to tear out the beating heart of our community.
Let’s do both things. Let’s honor victims and convict predators. Give criminals the sentences they deserve. And let’s protect all of us from federal overreach. Mueller should read Mancera’s heartfelt letter and change his vote on second reading.
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