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Sonoma County Gazette
Immigrant Stories by Christopher Kerosky

Why Sanctuary is Important

May 2, 2018
by Christopher Kerosky, Kerosky, Purves & Bogue, LLP, Sonoma County Human Rights Commissioner


Between 2006 and 2013, hundreds of our neighbors in the County were arrested by our Sheriff’s Department, even though they were guilty of no serious crimes. Some were stopped because of a traffic violation or a broken headlight. Because they did not have a driver’s license, they were then handcuffed, jailed and detained sometimes indefinitely. Their cars were often impounded. In some cases, they were charged only with driving without a license; sometimes no charges were filed at all. Yet they were not allowed to go free, even if they paid a bond.

After some period of incarceration in our county jails, these Sonoma County residents were handed over to the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) to commence their deportation from the United States. They were often young, sometimes students in college or even high school. Others were young mothers or fathers, with small children at home. Sometimes they were driving their children to school or coming home from work.

Local law enforcement authorities claimed they had no choice but to arrest, detain and transfer these neighbors of ours for deportation. Many were removed from the U.S. as a result, leaving behind U.S.-born children, spouses and extended family.

I can tell you this happened because I represented hundreds of them in deportation court. I saw the way this County policy devastated many families in our community. This occurred to hundreds of thousands of immigrants in counties throughout California and across the country.

Why did this happen? Because our County participated actively in the Secure Communities Program run by ICE back then, and now revived under Trump. What stops this from happening today? Our state and county sanctuary policies. Nothing more.

Sanctuary is a good thing. With the Trump Administration’s constant drumbeat of verbal attacks, financial sanctions and lawsuits against sanctuary communities, many in our state are questioning whether “sanctuary” is a good thing. As someone who has seen the trauma that our prior policies caused immigrant families here, I can tell you: sanctuary is a good thing. It’s vital that we don’t return to the days when thousands of our state residents were rounded up and deported; to when just driving to the store or the school created serious risk for undocumented immigrants.

And for those who agree with me, I say: it’s very important that we make our economic and political choices accordingly. 

Time to boycott Orange County. Certain California counties have joined the Trump lawsuit seeking to invalidate SB 54, the state law that prevents cooperation with ICE except when the person sought by ICE is a real criminal. Most prominent is Orange County, which did so with great fanfare, publicly allying itself with the Trump deportation machine. This is despite the fact that Orange County has a huge immigrant population and it benefits immensely from their labor in the hospitality industry.

I say it’s time we defer those trips to Disneyland and other Orange County resorts and let their County leaders know how wrong we think this is. Economic boycott is the best tool, as shown by the Parkland kids fighting the NRA. Let’s use it to support immigrants. Boycott Orange County.

Why I am voting for John Mutz. This Sheriff’s election is another important way to stand up for our County’s immigrant population: we need a Sheriff who will embrace and celebrate our sanctuary policies and refuse to cooperate with ICE’s efforts to deport non-criminals. John Mutz is that candidate. He has made it one of the central parts of his progressive agenda. As much as I like Ernesto Olivares and think it would be wonderful to have an immigrant Sheriff, I think John has the strongest candidate on this issue. We need someone who will fight to prevent a return to the days when our immigrant population was afraid to see a Sheriff’s vehicle.

Why I am voting for Ray Leonard. I also whole-heartedly endorse Ray Leonard for County Clerk/Recorder/ Assessor/Registrar. Ray is a long-time County official and community leader, volunteering in the leadership of the United Way, the Boy Scouts, Legal Aid and a host of other groups. I can tell you from personal experience that Ray works tirelessly as the Scoutmaster of our outstanding local Boy Scout Troop 32, making a difference in so many young lives. He’s a great guy and the best person for this job.Vote Ray Leonard!

Immigrant Stories by Christopher Kerosky


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