Immigration and Customs Enforcement raids in the Bay Area last week that led to the arrest of 25 illegal immigrants, including five in Watsonville and two in Capitola, prompted expressions of outrage from speakers at Tuesday’s City Council meeting.
“If I were in a position where I could do something, I would do whatever it took to stop these raids,” said Ramiro Medrano, a member of the Brown Berets. “Each and every single one of you sitting in that chair right now is in that position.”
The Brown Berets, which state on their Web site that they are “a community defense force acting for the liberation and amelioration of our barrios,” announced a response to the recent ICE raids. Groups plan a “Denouncing ICE Raids Press Conference and Rally” in Santa Cruz on Friday at 5 p.m. at Beach Flats Community Park 161 Raymond St., a link to the Brown Berets Web site announced.
Medrano said the sanctuary city status of Watsonville proved to be only a “symbolic gesture” that failed to help families caught up in last week’s raids.
“This past week just proves that,” he told the City Council. “ICE still came in, ICE still went into homes without a warrant, ICE still picked up people from the streets.”
The City Council’s vote last year to make Watsonville a sanctuary city, which includes a “noncooperation clause” with the federal government in the arena of immigration enforcement, failed to stave off the raids because of federal jurisdiction, members of the City Council conceded.
“It is really frustrating, and I can empathize with the feeling of being helpless,” said Mayor Kimberly Petersen. “The whole immigration situation and enforcement from the federal level, we feel it here at the local level, and it is frustrating.”
Petersen vowed to write to U.S. Rep. Sam Farr asking for an investigation into the raids.
“The way to get your reforms is to vote and make yourself active,” said City Councilmember Manuel Bersámin.
“I think the answer is next week,” he said, referring to the June 3 state primary election and the opportunity to vote.
City Councilmember Oscar Rios said, “It’s very unjust. It’s not the solution to the economic problems that we’re going through. It’s not going to stop the war that we’re going and spending billions of dollars. We have to stand together. You can’t divide us.”
Rios blasted ICE but acknowledged that the sanctuary city status can’t change federal immigration policy.
“It doesn’t keep us free from ICE coming in here, and it doesn’t keep us free from them coming and exerting a gestapo attitude,” he said.
(Published in 5/28/08 edition)
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