Sonoma County Sheriff Steve Freitas, a strong opponent of a state bill that would limit cooperation between local law enforcement and federal immigration officials, said this week that he would not oppose the new law if Gov. Jerry Brown signs it.
Concerned that opponents will block or gut a federal immigration bill in the Congress, Sonoma County immigration advocates are now marshaling efforts to pass a bill in Sacramento that would reduce deportations of people held in local jails.
Details of the wide-ranging immigration bill emerged from the nation’s capital Tuesday, fueling hopes among some North Coast immigrants that it would finally give them a path to live in the United States legally.
Laura González, a teacher and Santa Rosa School Board member, is an ardent advocate for people who entered the United States without permission in order to forge a better life. She terms them ‘undocumented immigrants.’ Steve Giraud of Petaluma, director of the NorCal Border Patrol Auxiliary, argues with equal fervor that those same people, whom he generally terms ‘illegal aliens,’ are, whatever their motivation, a risk to public health and safety and a drain on the U.S. economy. On Thursday, González and Giraud, seated next to each other at a forum convened by the county’s Commission on Human Rights, agreed on one thing that needs to happen in order to address the situation of the roughly 12 million people in the country illegally.
More than 100 people gathered in front of the Sonoma County Jail in Santa Rosa on Thursday afternoon for a prayer vigil to urge Gov. Jerry Brown to sign a legislation limiting local law enforcement’s ability to cooperate with federal immigration agents.
Sonoma County immigration advocates and Sheriff Steve Freitas have worked cooperatively in the past but now are clashing over legislation before Gov. Jerry Brown.
If signed into law, the measure would prohibit local police agencies from detaining suspected illegal immigrants on federal immigration holds, except in cases where suspects have been charged with a serious or violent felony or convicted of one in the past.
Freitas opposes the measure, saying it would force him to either defy the new state law or ignore federal regulations.
For hundreds of thousands of illegal immigrants who came to the United States as children, a lifelong fear was lifted Friday when President Barack Obama announced they no longer would be threatened by deportation and would be able to obtain work permits. The policy directive would halt deportations but not create an avenue for citizenship. Obama called it a ‘stop-gap’ measure while Congress moves on the Dream Act, stalled legislation that would create a path toward citizenship for young undocumented immigrants who are students or have served in the military. Obama’s announcement Friday resonated through the North Coast immigrant community, leaving many, especially students, in disbelief and even speechless.
For some, the decision by local law enforcement officials to accept Mexican consular IDs represents a violation of the rule of law and an official acceptance of the growing presence of illegal immigrants. But police say it is the most sensible way to play the hand dealt to them by ineffective federal lawmakers who have failed to address issues surrounding illegal immigration. What is your take?
The Santa Rosa High School auditorium Sunday had the feel of part victorious political rally, part community party and part tent revival as Sonoma County’s two largest law enforcement agencies announced they would begin accepting Mexican consular cards as a valid identification. The cards will reduce the number of people booked into jail for lacking identification or for traffic offenses. And that will lead to fewer deportations from the jail.