By J. Douglas Allen-Taylor
With members of the Alameda County Board of Supervisors saying they have no power to prevent the county sheriff from continuing federal immigration violation holds at the county jail, a packed meeting room of immigrant families and advocates told supervisors recently that the practice causing widespread economic and psychological uncertainty in county immigrant communities.
At the request of federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), the sheriff’s office puts two-day detainers on more than 80 Santa Rita Jail inmates a month on suspicion of immigration law violations, with more than 75 percent of them ending up being turned over to immigration authorities.
Students of immigrant parents, people identifying themselves as undocumented workers, and immigration rights advocates told members of the two-person Public Protection Committee of the board of supervisors this month that the ICE Secure-Communities (S-Com) holds and arrests were particularly hard on families that lose their breadwinners.
“Oakland lost 131 lives to violence last year,” Pablo Paredes of 67 Sueños migrant youth worker advocate organization testified to the two-member Public Protection Committee hearing this month.
“What I’m here to tell you is that [Alameda County’s] investment in S-Com is your investment in killing the next baby in Oakland. Violence is not born in a vacuum,” he said. “Violence is born in situation where alternatives disappear, where frustration increases, where my Daddy’s not home tonight. Where my Mom is not home tonight.
“When a breadwinner is deported, [the remaining single parent has to] balance the low wages that they throw at them because they are undocumented, [and so they have to] neglect their children. That leads to ‘who is raising our kids?’ The streets are raising our kids. The dealers on the corner are raising our kids. That’s why so many of our sisters are turning into prostitutes. That’s why so many of our children are coming to school high.”
Paredes said that instead of investing in families, cooperation with federal immigration authorities is “investing in kidnapping parents in the middle of the night.”
One teenage Latina girl identifying herself only as Diana said the S-Com holds and deportations are “breaking up families just like they did to mine. My aunt and uncle got deported, and that affected me as well as their children. It ruined their family, their childhood, their lives, and their dreams. The [Alameda County sheriff’s deputies] should do their own job and let ICE do theirs.”
Several of the speakers said that while the forced deportations do not make Alameda County safer-since the majority of those deported from the county are either non-violent offenders or have not committed any state or local crimes at all-with some adding that the deportees themselves can face danger in returning to their home countries.
Sylvia Brandon Perez, a volunteer with the East Bay Interfaith Immigration Coalition, a naturalized American citizen from Cuba and a retired immigration attorney, told the story of one Alameda County man from Guatemala who had applied for asylum “because he was afraid if he was returned to his country, he would be killed.
He was arrested because he was parked at a yellow line, waiting for his wife who was at a PTA meeting at a school in Hayward. He was deported to Guatemala. Within three months he had been shot and killed, leaving two U.S.-born children and a wife.”
And Maria Kelly, a Berkeley-area immigration rights worker and a Syrian-American, said she had several family members who are in the country on tourist visas. “If they overstay their visas and they get pulled over for something like a broken tail light or whatever and they’re sent back to Syria, what are they being sent back to?