San Joaquin Valley’s elected officials must stand up for immigrants

San Joaquin Valley’s elected officials must stand up for immigrants

BY MARICELA GUTIÉRREZ 

SEPTEMBER 04, 2018 11:47 AM,

UPDATED SEPTEMBER 04, 2018 10:47 AM

Pro-ICE supporter Ben Bergquam, left, and Jaimie Loza, right, who spoke out for immigrant rights, have a heated exchange at the community rally outside the Hall of Records building, Tuesday Aug 8, 2018. The demonstration was held to protest recent arrests by ICE agents at the Fresno County Courthouse.    JOHN WALKER    FRESNO BEE FILE

Pro-ICE supporter Ben Bergquam, left, and Jaimie Loza, right, who spoke out for immigrant rights, have a heated exchange at the community rally outside the Hall of Records building, Tuesday Aug 8, 2018. The demonstration was held to protest recent arrests by ICE agents at the Fresno County Courthouse. JOHN WALKER FRESNO BEE FILE

Since mid-July, Immigration and Custom Enforcement officials have been making arrests at Fresno’s courthouses, violating people’s right to due process and continuing to stoke fear within the immigrant community. It’s no coincidence that Fresno County is home to one of the fiercest in-state critics of California’s sanctuary policies, Sheriff Margaret Mims, who has proudly announced that her deputies and ICE have a strong working relationship. Though she claims that she is complying with state laws, the experience of community members in the Valley proves that there continues to be tight entanglement between her office and ICE. In our daily interactions with the immigrant community, providing legal services and know your rights trainings, we have heard more and more stories about a growing fear of contacting local law enforcement because of legitimate concerns of potential deportation.

The Central Valley is being acutely impacted by Trump’s war on immigrants – so much so that my organization, the Services, Immigrant Rights & Education Network is poised to open a new office in Fresno due to increased demand. I have witnessed the plight of immigrants in our community firsthand since I was young. I grew up in the Fresno area as the daughter of immigrant farmworkers, hearing the stories of abusive employers and seeing my family and neighbors racially profiled by police and targeted by ICE. Now, as the executive director of SIREN, an immigrant and refugee rights advocacy organization, I’ve been connecting with many people who have been swept up by ICE in their brutal campaign.