By Cristina Gloria
I would like to express disappointment about how the immigration detention forum was handled April 17 at the YWCA. After attending, I question whether this public forum was intended to be an opportunity to hear from the sheriff about renting space for civil immigration detention in our jail and to answer questions from the public. If so, it did not meet that goal and it did not reflect the mission of the YWCA as it did not “promote peace, justice, freedom and dignity” to the attendees or the citizens of this community.
The members of the AAA & Latino American Voices feel that the presence of so many sheriff’s deputies dressed in bulletproof vests and carrying weapons was unnecessary, as well as the way they treated the forum attendees.
I have worked with law enforcement and have great respect for the work they do. However, the way that the deputies talked to us was as if we were criminal suspects or prisoners who were being lined up for a count. I was waiting to be asked to put my hands against the wall to be searched.
The audience at the meeting was made up of professionals, business owners and a few publicly elected officials. There appeared to be some deputies dressed as civilians in the audience taking up the already limited seating.
I perceived all of this as a technique to intimidate the people who were attending the forum. Why was this allowed in a facility of an organization that is promoting peace, justice, freedom and dignity? Personally, I did not feel dignified by the presence of so many deputies, the ineptitude of the ICE officer and the final comments from state Rep. John Cabello.
Mr. Cabello did not demonstrate empathy at all and clearly demonstrated his “white male privilege” when he said that immigrants “should be afraid” and that they should “get legal.” I hope that the YWCA will invite Mr. Cabello to one of its workshops so that he may understand that his comments were completely inappropriate and reflected his lack of understanding of immigration issues.
As if they have any other option under the law or that only undocumented immigrants are deported. I know the YWCA does not have control over what he said, but the YWCA has the obligation to offer assistance to Mr. Cabello to understand how to speak thoughtfully to all people.
The responses that the sheriff provided insulted the intelligence of the attendees at the meeting. He presented the ICE detention center as something that he would have total control over, telling ICE whom he will take and whom he will not.
The ICE officer was unable to say if the sheriff had this authority or not. The sheriff did not clarify how the functions of law enforcement to fight crime would be affected even as he heard how the immigrant community’s trust of police will be broken if ICE has a presence in our jail. It is unclear if he understands that federal civil detention is different from criminal custody.
In conclusion, at the end of the forum we left with more questions, more distrust of the sheriff’s decision-making process and disappointment toward how we were treated at the YWCA, which is supposed to be a safe place for the community.
Cristina Gloria, MA, LPC. is a community liaison and board member for AAA & Latino American Voices.