Indivisible: Conejo Weekly Newsletter

Immigration Panelists Point

To Next Steps Advocating

For California Values Act

Urging Indivisible: Conejo activists to keep up the pressure on Assemblymember Jacqui Irwin as the California Values Act continues to move through the state legislature, panelists at our fourth General Meeting on Sunday, May 21, offered moving and powerful arguments on behalf of SB54 and the rights of immigrants in general.

In particular, they pointed to a protest rally scheduled for Wednesday, May 31, from 4-6 p.m. outside Irwin's office in Camarillo. Indivisible: Conejo is co-sponsoring the rally with Central Coast United for a Sustainable Economy (CAUSE) and other organizations. The panelists emphasized the need for residents of the eastern, suburban portion of Irwin's district to show their support for the California Values Act. One of them, community organizer Raul Lopez from CAUSE (shown speaking in the photo above), didn't mince words: "We need the white people from Thousand Oaks to come and show Jacqui Irwin that it's not just brown people who support this bill," he said. 

The California Values Act is the bill that would turn California into a “sanctuary state.” It would limit the use of state and local resources – including law enforcement, but also the information gathered by other state actors such as courts, schools, healthcare and welfare agencies – to assist federal agents in immigration enforcement efforts. It has been passed by the state senate, and awaits its first committee hearings in the assembly. 

Citlali Escamilla, a beneficiary of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program and a social worker with the City of Ventura's Human Services agency, discussed her hardships and emotional difficulties as a teenager who recognized that the American dream might never be fully available to her. "I was depressed, and even thought about suicide when I was graduating high school, because I couldn't imagine having a chance to succeed and make a life for myself in this country," she said.

Escamilla persevered, and took advantage of the DACA program and California's progressive policies toward undocumented immigrants (including in-state tuition) to earn a degree from Cal State Channel Islands. She is now married to a citizen and holds a green card -- as well as a driver's license, after years of driving without one. (She recalled her excitement at having a license to show to a police officer the first time she was stopped for a traffic violation.)

Still, Escamilla noted that she cannot vote in opposition to the Trump administration's immigration policies, and lacks the standing as a citizen to lobby her state legislators on behalf of SB54 and other measures. "I need you to be my voice," she told attendees. "I am counting on you to be my vote."

Other participants on Sunday's panel included Alvaro de Regil from the Ventura County branch of Clergy and Laity United for Economic Justice (CLUE-VC), who detailed the links between Assemblyperson Irwin and Ventura County Sheriff Geoff Dean, who opposes SB54 (and supports Trump attorney general Jeff Sessions); and Roman Pinal, head of the United Farm Workers union in the county. Pinal described the working conditions for migrant farmworkers in the county, and offered details on the Farm Worker Bill of Rights that is up for a vote with the Ventura County Board of Supervisors in the coming weeks.

Julie Diaz Martinez, leader of Indivisible: Conejo's Immigrants' Rights team, provided a detailed description of the California Values Act and told of her recent meeting with Sheriff Dean. She noted the danger of Dean's support for sharing information with ICE when potentially undocumented immigrants are booked into the county jail: "Colluding with ICE erodes trust and dismantles the valuable relationship between law enforcement and the community -- which ultimately compromises public safety for us all," she said. 

Lopez refuted another of Dean's key arguments -- that limiting local law enforcement's cooperation with ICE in the county jails will result in federal immigration enforcement efforts moving into our streets and homes. "ICE is already there," he noted, telling the story of two young men who had been rounded up and targeted for deportation while waiting for a ride to work in Oxnard the previous morning. "They were just standing there, living their lives, and now they are going to be sent who knows where. So don't let anyone tell you that setting ICE up with a desk in our prisons, as Sheriff Dean has done, will stop them from picking people up off the streets who haven't done anything wrong. They're doing it now."

To kick off Sunday's meeting, Maya Lilly, a co-producer with Brave New Films, introduced a pair of documentary shorts about immigrants' experiences, The Call to Sanctuary and Pursuing the Dream: DACA, Immigration, and Beyond. 

Mark Your Calendar!