A couple of hard hitting issues directly impacting millions of people in the country, state and in Kern County came to light recently both involving bad and good news.
First the bad news: Trump's pandering to his base about "massive raids" targeting undocumented immigrants only serves to instill fear in people.
The good news: Bakersfield police, the Kern County Sheriff's Office, Arvin Police Department, Delano Police Department and others all say they will not be assisting in helping Immigration and Customs Enforcement carry out any such raids. These departments will be following state under SB54.
To allay any fears about this, Delano police chief Roberto Nevarez wisely posted a message on the department's Facebook page. It reads: "Consistent with SB54, the California Values Act, the Delano Police Department will not be utilizing their resources on behalf of federal immigration officials and will not be working with Immigration and Customs Enforcement...Please be assured that we stay committed to serving our city with Integrity, Service and Trust."
The message was also posted in Spanish. But as they say, no good deed goes unpunished. Shortly after posting the message, someone filled with hatred and ignorance posted a comment on a photo of Chief Nevarez posing for his police department photo dressed in uniform with the U.S. flag behind him. In vile personal terms the simpleton writes, "Get away from our flag, you dirty....(expletive)" Notice the reference, "our flag."
Encouraging words for the undocumented also came from the Roman Catholic Diocese of Fresno and other faith leaders as Trump proclaimed his intended actions. Jim Grant, Director of Social Science Ministry for the Diocese of Fresno points out that on the day ICE was to carry out deportation orders (Sunday, July 14) was also the same day that the parable of the good Samaritan was read at churches. In case you forgot, the good Samaritan parable exhorts people to help those who are in need of help despite social, cultural, language or religious differences. Hmmmm...was this just a coincidence? Two days later, Cardinal Daniel N. DiNardo of Galveston-Houston, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, condemned ICE enforcement actions, saying that they "separate families, cause the unacceptable suffering of thousands of children and their parents and create widespread panic in our communities."
"There's got to be a better way than an 'enforcement only approach' to immigration," said Grant.
Religious people are also getting involved with groups such as Rapid Response Network of Kern. It's a coalition of human rights activists, community organizations and community leaders who monitor ICE activity locally and support the undocumented by providing workshops on teaching immigrants their rights and what to do should they be detained or arrested by ICE.
Encouraging as the words may be from religious leaders, so far no Catholic Church in Kern County or in the Fresno Diocese has proclaimed itself to be a sanctuary where undocumented immigrants can take refuge from ICE. Grant said Bishop Joseph Brennan may be contemplating issuing a letter in the near future on the ICE sweeps within the Diocese of Fresno.
First term Delano city councilman Bryan Osorio is wasting no time in delving into the issue. Delano residents have been caught up in ICE enforcement actions splitting families apart. In a well publicized case that drew national headlines last year, Delano residents Santos Hilario Garcia and Marcelina Garcia were pulled over by ICE agents after dropping off their daughter at school. The farm-worker couple fled in their car for fear of being deported. Santos Hilario Garcia crashed into a pole and died, leaving six children behind. Two weeks later and before he was elected to the city council, Osorio led a march from Delano city hall to Cecil Park calling on council members to adopt a sanctuary city policy.
"I'm doing this because I want to protect the people of my community," said Osorio. The proposal comes up for a vote on Aug. 5th and, if passed, would make Delano the first and only sanctuary city in Kern County.
The second issue is a victory for advocates and local governments calling on a complete and accurate census count next year. After losing a bitterly fought political battle in all the courts, Trump retreated in his quest to place a question about citizenship on next year's census. Once again, the tactic was fear. By placing the citizenship question, local community leaders worry this would result in immigrants refusing to participate in the census.
"My hope is that more folks in the Punjabi Community will come forward and take part in the census now that the citizenship question has been removed," said Raji Brar, a local business owner and activist in Kern County's Indian community.
"Fear, whether it be unfounded or not makes folks shy away from participating in anything, period," said Brar.
Ivy Cargile, Assistant Professor of Political Science at Cal State Bakersfield says we're not out of the census woods just yet.
"Given the hostile environment that both immigrant and communities of color are now faced with, it is still very possible that there will be an undercount of people," said Cargile who notes that an undercount would have dire consequences.
"For populous states like California this can mean the loss of billions of dollars for social services and even the loss of a member of the House of Representatives."
Does more need to be done? No question about it.