Submitted by Congregations Organizing for Renewal
Dozens of Hayward area residents braved the rainy weather this past Saturday morning to join a trilingual community forum.
What brought them together in spite of the downpour?
A call for Alameda County to heal the painful impact of a controversial deportation program.
Using both high-tech headsets and old-fashioned pen and paper, speakers of English, Spanish, and Tagalog discovered shared experiences with their neighbors. A common thread: when local law enforcement gets entangled with dysfunctional federal immigration policies, families, communities and public safety all suffer.
The forum is the second in a series launched by the Alameda County United in Defense of Immigrant Rights (ACUDIR) coalition in the wake of the November election, in which Latino and Asian-American voters made the difference in key contests across the nation.
In fact, Alameda County had one of the highest percentages of progressive votes in the state, from President to Prop 30.
So it might surprise you that the same County has also helped deport 1,734 residents under the misnamed "Secure" Communities deportation program - one of the highest numbers in northern California.
Since the election, we've seen heightened calls for an approach to immigration that reflects core values like keeping families together, strengthening communities, and upholding the principal that all are created equal.
Forum participants say that begins right here at home.
Under the federal "Secure" Communities or S-Comm program, the fingerprints of everyone arrested are automatically sent to Immigrations and Customs Enforcement, long before folks have had their day in court. ICE then asks local jails to hold people for extra time, beyond the point they would otherwise be released and back with their loved ones, just so they can be picked up for deportation. Because of this, food vendors, survivors of domestic violence, and many other community members have been taken from their families and deported.
And who picks up the tab for these extended detentions in local jails?
Our own local governments.
That's one of the many reasons there's been an uproar against the program.
In fact, Cook County, IL (home to Chicago, and President Obama) does not respond to a single request from ICE to hold people for extra time. The President of the County's powerful board of supes says it's an issue of basic equality.
And now, a movement of Alameda County residents is calling for the County to follow Cook County's example on this vital issue. The City of Berkeley and neighboring Santa Clara County already have similar policies.
Residents at the forum included constituents of Supervisors Richard Valle and Nate Miley. Many hailed from unincorporated areas policed by Sheriff Greg Ahern.
It's safe to say these officials will be hearing more from this diverse group of newly-energized constituents.
Residents also are urging Governor Jerry Brown to fulfill his promise to champion a revamped version of the TRUST Act, state legislation which would also put limits on these unfair detentions - across the state. (Despite vetoing the broadly supported bill, the Gov. promised to work on a revised version "forthwith.)
The stakes are high for us all. In the words of one participant at Saturday’s forum, "People who are victims of crime say silent," due to the S-Comm program. Another described the constant fear of the police, while yet another participant called on the group to take action: “Many times it’s difficult to being organizing, but that’s what we need to do. We have to unite, to defend ourselves—we are an incredible force.”
ACUDIR organizations include: Berkeley Organizing Congregations for Action, Black Alliance for Just Immigration, Causa Justa::Just Cause, California Immigrant Policy Center, Centro Legal de la Raza, Congregations Organizing for Renewal, Filipino Advocates for Justice, East Bay Alliance for a Sustainable Economy, East Bay Interfaith Committee for Worker Justice, Immigrant Legal Resource Center, Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights, Mujeres Unidas y Activas, National Network for Immigrant and Refugee Rights, Street Level Health Project, Oakland Community Organizations, Alliance for Justice, National Lawyers Guild, Alameda County Paul Robeson Chapter of the Northern California ACLU.