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Sonoma County Gazette
Savory Sonoma by Stephanie Hiller

Immigration Law
& Aylum Seekers

Jan 30, 2019
by Stephanie Hiller


“We are crying for a vision/That all living things can share/
And those who care/Are with us everywhere”
— Kate Wolf

Two Sonomans are on the 12-member “Democrats United” slate for the elected position of California Assembly Delegate of District 10 (Marc Levine’s district): Councilwoman Rachel Hundley, and newly elected council member Logan Harvey. The duties of delegates include attending the annual California Democratic Party Conventions; electing Party officers in May, and in Fall of 2019, and endorsing a candidate for President among other duties. Sounds like a lot of work, and of course it’s not a paid position – but Hundley and Harvey are committed to making change in Washington, and more power to them!

Vicki Handron and her sister Suzanna Bon made a trip to the border in November. They told us about it January 9 in the cozy setting of Art Escape run by Kate Ortolando in the Springs. The room was packed.

Vicki is an attorney who has recently changed her focus to immigration law. She went to Karnes, Texas, as a volunteer with the organization RAICES with her sister as translator.

Isn’t it dangerous? Was she afraid? What motivated her to undertake this generous task?

“Mostly I’m inspired by my mother’s legacy.  

“She always fought for the underprivileged and instilled in us a sense of duty to do what we can for those in need.” Her mother, the late Elizabeth Kemp, volunteered with many local charitable organizations including FISH, La Luz, Vineyard Worker's Services, and SOS (Sonoma Overnight Support),” according to her obituary in the Index-Tribune. “Elizabeth helped organize temporary camps for migrant workers, started the Brown Bagger program to provide lunches on the streets, and worked to establish the first homeless shelter in Sonoma. She was named the 2009 Alcaldessa of Sonoma. 

But she had her own motivation. “The family separation policy sparked outrage and I felt compelled to do something about it.”

What the migrants are doing is legal, she stressed. “People cross the border by walking over the bridge, the border patrol picks them up, and they present themselves as asylum seekers.” That’s the procedure.

They are taken first to the “Dog House,” where they are put in big cages. Families are kept there for three days, then sent to the “Ice House” where it’s “super cold. Big fans blow, night and day, no one knows why, keeping the temperature in the 50s and 60s.” After three days they are prosecuted for illegal entry and separated from their kids, then transferred to Karnes County Residential Center, a detention center run by a private company called Geo, “basically a prison”. 

“Nobody can see past the entry room” – where Vicki and Suzanna advised migrants about their rights during the five days they spent there, doing intake interviews and providing what information they can about the process. 

 “The whole process is random. There’s a lack of oversight, a lack of consistency, a lack of policy. People don’t know what they’ll have to go through. 

Bail will cost $2500 to $10,000; if they don’t have it, they have to stay in detention. If they do and then they’re deported, they lose the money. “But there’s no rhyme or reason to what the decision will be.”

It seems to be a process designed to rob people of their dignity and their will, indeed, their personhood.

Vicki provided many resources for information and to give support, and urged us to write our representatives

On Saturday, January 12, the Sonoma Valley Historical Society led by Patricia Cullinan hosted a presentation by Harvey Smith, “Sonoma Valley and the New Deal.”

Smith, vice president of the Living New Deal project ( and a professor at UC Berkeley, talked about the roots of the New Deal and the many things it accomplished all over the country, including in Sonoma, where workers helped repair the Vallejo Home and the Mission, as well as the Sonoma State Home (SDC) and built Analy High School in Sebastopol, among others.

The WPA alone employed 8.5 million workers!

It was a fascinating talk, especially in light of the thrust to undertake a Green New Deal, which has been simmering since 2007 and is now receiving a big push by congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez with the support of some 40 Democrats. 

The work goes on! Supporters of Our Children’s Trust, the lawsuit brought by 22 young people against the federal government for failing to deal with climate change, members of the Earthcare Committee will report to the Sonoma Democrats Jan 28.

May compassion be with you on your way!



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