By Esteban Ramirez
Senior Staff Writer
Despite a plea from a CSUB professor and members of the community, the Kern County Board of Supervisors voted overwhelmingly to oppose the proposed “sanctuary state” bill during its meeting at the Kern County Administrative Center Tuesday, May 9.
CSUB sociology professor Gonzalo Santos, Dolores Huerta, members of the community and the Immigration Justice Collaborative voiced their support for Senate Bill 54, which would restrict local law enforcement’s ability to provide resources to federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials concerning non-violent undocumented immigrants.
However, the board passed a resolution against the bill.
“It is my opinion that [the board is] like your own sheriff going against the tremendous progress we have achieved in the past 20 years in California,” said Santos.
Santos urged the board to support the bill.
He also stated in an email he was dissatisfied with the board’s decision to draft a resolution to oppose SB54.
The supervisors still voted 4-1, with only Supervisor Leticia Perez voting against the resolution made by the staff.
Perez said she could not support an opposition for SB54 because of how it continues to polarize the community.
According to Supervisor Mick Gleason, the bill would negatively impact public safety because he said it would limit Sheriff Donny Youngblood from doing his job.
“It tells the Sheriff and these good men and women, who wear the uniform that we don’t trust them,” said Gleason during the meeting. “It’s a sense that they can’t do their job. I don’t believe for one second that our law enforcement are out looking for ways to enforce unfair laws on [undocumented immigrants].”
Gleason added they need to work together to come up with a position that makes sense.
Chair of the Board Zack Scrivner agreed with Gleason and Supervisor David Couch that the bill would be detrimental to public safety, and Scrivner said he hopes to come up with a better solution.
Scrivner added he will join Perez, Gleason and County Administrative Officer Ryan Alsop in a meeting in Sacramento with Senate President Pro Tempore Kevin de Leon, who authored SB54, to ask for changes to the language on Wednesday, May 17.
The board hopes Youngblood joins them in the meeting.
“We are going to do our best to modify the language of that bill,” said Scrivner.
The Immigration Justice Collaborative, a group of Kern County lawyers who practice in diverse areas, sent a letter to the board before the meeting.
In the letter, they described what SB54 would do.
“SB 54 is limited in scope and would only prohibit state and local law enforcement, including school and security departments from using local resources such as equipment, facilities, property, funds or personnel to investigate, interrogate, detain, detect or arrest persons solely to enforce federal immigration law with certain important exceptions that promote public safety,” the letter stated.
It added that people who commit violent or serious felonies will not be released without notification to ICE.
According to the letter, non-citizens, who commit violent or serious felonies, will not be released under SB 54 without notification to ICE.
The letter also stated the bill would not prevent any state or local law enforcement agency from responding to a request from federal agents about a specific person’s criminal history, including prior arrests and convictions, accessed through the California Law Enforcement Telecommunications System.
Attorney H.A. Sala presented the letter at the meeting.
Assistant County Counsel Mark Nations later confirmed that everything Sala said regarding the bill was accurate.
“I was a little saddened by the outcome,” said attorney and IJC member Edyta-Christina Grzybowska-Grant. “I thought that the speeches were powerful. There were some really powerful and well though out points being brought up. I thought they would sway at least one or two [supervisors]. It kind of felt like it fell on deaf ears.”
Grzybowska-Grant said some of the presenters opposing the legislation didn’t do enough research.
“It is not nearly as restrictive as it is portrayed because it still leaves the freedom to hand over the actual criminals — the felons,” she said.
Attorney and IJC member Xochitl Garcia said it outlines that local law enforcement communicates with federal immigration enforcement when an undocumented immigrant who committed a violent crime is released from prison.
However, Garcia added it does not allow federal enforcement to use local resources to investigate people based on a belief that they are in the country illegally.
Grzybowska-Grant added with over 50 percent of the population being Hispanic or Latino, the vote doesn’t seem representative of the community.
Dolores Huerta said Gleason is not representing his constituents with his vote.
“He’s supposed to represent a lot of the Latino community, but he, obviously, has a blind eye and doesn’t see that,” Huerta said.
Gleason represents District 1, which includes McFarland, Ridgecrest, Shafter and Delano.
Alex Gonzalez, 23, said he was not happy with the board’s decision.
“I’m infuriated,” said Gonzalez. “After they heard several attorneys, after they heard professors throw out statistics, it still went through one ear and out the other.”
CSUB political science major Randy Villegas, 22, said the bill will be very helpful to the community.
“I think SB54 can be a real victory for our community in Kern County,” said Villegas. “We have a lot of undocumented people, who are afraid of going to the grocery store to buy groceries or afraid of sending their kids to school and wonder what is going to happen if families get separated in the middle of the day. SB54 is something that is very vital to our community and would help calm a lot of fears as well.”
He added it is unfortunate that most of the supervisors decided to scapegoat the immigrant community.
“It’s unfair to scapegoat a community that really contributes in both economics and they are the backbone of the agriculture industry and just want to pursue their own little American Dream,” he said. “That’s at risk because of leaders like the board of supervisors.”
Community members are taking steps to show their support for the bill before the board meets with de Leon.
Bakersfield Organizer at the Dolores Huerta Foundation Gabriela Fernandez said the foundation is going to meet with Assemblymember Rudy Salas on Friday, May 12 to handover petitions supporting SB54.
“We feel it’s really important for him to really represent his community,” Fernandez said. “We have been there at town hall meetings, and we feel that Rudy Salas should work with different organizations to have a town hall meeting to hear his constituents concerns.”
Here are screenshots of the letter submitted by the Immigration Justice Collaborative