Alameda County citizens marched to urge their sheriff and Board of Supervisors not to comply with the Priority Enforcement Program three weeks after San Francisco stood behind its sanctuary city policy.
Nearly three dozen community members, organized by Alameda County United in Defense of Immigrant Rights, gathered outside the Alameda County Administrative Offices in Oakland before marching to Sheriff Gregory J. Ahern’s steps to appeal to his office to reverse their position on priority enforcement.
PEP is looser than the previous Secure Communities legislation, said Kitzia Esteva, an organizer with Causa Justa/Just Cause, but is still detrimental to immigrant communities:
“When police and ICE work together, families are torn apart.”
Violent crime and abuse often go unreported by witnesses and even victims for fear of involvement between local law enforcement and ICE, Esteva said.
Leliana Jimenez can attest. Five years ago, her partner was pulled over for a faulty tail light and told he would receive a ticket. At court in Milpitas, his records were requested by ICE and he was deported before Jimenez gave birth.
Now, at five years old, Jimenez said in Spanish her son Alberto only knows his father through the Internet:
“[Alberto] asks about him every day. … It’s hard, we couldn’t keep going without our community’s support.”
Community members raised signs painted with “Ni Una Mas Deportacíon,” “ICE” with the acronym struck through, and “La Union Hace Fuerza,” as they marched up Oak Street in Oakland, singing a rendition of Joan Baez’s iconic protest song, “No Nos Moveran.”
The march was held one year after President Obama repealed Secure Communities. While PEP aims to target high-risk immigrants, its stipulations are either unclear or suffer from the same problems as S-Comm, according to the National Immigration Law Center.
Both PEP and S-Comm begin with fingerprint information obtained when a person is booked into a state or local jail. The fingerprints are sent to the Department of Homeland Security, and checked against immigration databases.
With PEP, the requests for detention issued by ICE are generally replaced with requests for notification.
ICE can issue a request for detention under special circumstances, but opponents voice concerns that PEP does not define “special circumstances,” or require judicial determination of probable cause.
At Ahern’s office, Monika Langarica of the Centro Legal de la Raza, filed a Public Records Access request to gather information about how PEP is being rolled out in Alameda County and the county’s cooperation with ICE.
In May, Ahern announced that he would stop holding people in at Santa Rita Jail for extended periods of time under federal hold requests, of which nearly 1,000 are made every year.
But in the wake of Kathyrn Steinle’s death at the hands of Juan Francisco Lopez-Sanchez, an unauthorized immigrant from Nicaragua, Ahern and the sheriffs of Contra Costa, Marin and San Mateo counties agreed to cooperate with ICE in holding unauthorized immigrants an extra 48 hours.
“The sheriff said he would stop ICE cooperation. … Now we’re seeing ICE agents crawling through our jails.”
A second march tomorrow at 6:00 p.m. at Lower Sproul on the University of California, Berkeley campus.