By BRETT WILKISON
THE PRESS DEMOCRAT
Sonoma County Supervisor Efren Carrillo said his vote this week opposing the award of a contract to an Arizona company because of the state’s new illegal immigration law was an act of conscience and protest.
Carrillo’s vote, cast on Tuesday on a closely-watched item deciding contracts related to the short- and long-term reopening of the county’s central landfill, appears to be the first official act opposing the Arizona law by a local elected leader.
“As a matter of principle, I didn’t feel comfortable with the county approving a contract with a company whose headquarters are in a state that has allowed this to happen,” Carrillo said in an interview Thursday.
He added that his vote was not meant as a judgment against the Phoenix-based waste contractor Republic Services Inc., who he described as a “great, reputable company.”
Carrillo seemed to surprise many people in a nearly-packed board room Tuesday, when, after two hours of contentious public comment and discussion of the more than $50 million in waste contracts, he announced his stance with several clipped sentences.
Minutes later supervisors voted 3-2 to award the Arizona firm two contracts related to the landfill, with one deal requiring a final sign-off in August.
Supervisor Shirlee Zane, who had initially expressed some concern about awarding one of those deals to Republic on fiscal grounds, cast the other dissenting vote while expressing support for Carrillo’s stance.
“It was a very emotional moment for me,” Zane said Thursday. She cited her earlier teaching and social work in Latino communities in the United States and her marriage to a British immigrant as driving her position. “I think elected officials need to make a stand and say what Arizona is doing is wrong.”
For Carrillo, the issue has even closer personal ties. The supervisor’s parents, who are natives of Mexico, were undocumented immigrants this country until 1986, when a reformed federal immigration law offered amnesty to thousands without legal U.S.residency. Carrillo was born in 1981 while his parents were working and living in North Hollywood.
“The decisions my folks made were decisions before I was born,” the supervisor said.
Still, his family’s history did figure into his stance Tuesday, Carrillo acknowledged.
While a supporter of increased security along the U.S. border, he said he also supports “a path to amnesty” for undocumented immigrants as part of “fair and equitable immigration reform.”
“The Arizona law does exactly the opposite,” he said. “It allows for the potential for discrimination, for racial profiling.”
The law, enacted in April, is the subject of an increasing number of lawsuits and has drawn either condemnation or outright boycotts from a number of California cities, including Los Angeles, San Francisco, Oakland and San Jose.
Carrillo, who has been critical of the Arizona law on several social media sites, said he has considered bringing up a resolution before the Board of Supervisors in favor of immigration reform.
The Arizona law would not necessarily be a part of any such resolution, though it might “come up as part of the discussion,” he said.
He added that while no call for a boycott is envisioned at this point, “I feel very strongly that the county should not be engaging or doing business with Arizona until they find something that is more just and fair.”
Any other future county business involving Arizona or Arizona firms Carrillo said he would consider “on a case-by-case basis.”
“I didn’t intend for this discussion to come up in the waste hauling contracts,” he said. “(But) immigration reform has to come nationally. I don’t see (the Arizona law) as an adequate solution.”