On April 18th, Congressman Mike Thompson held a town hall meeting to address the topic of immigration. Joining Thompson on the dais at the Napa Valley College Performing Arts Center were California Senator Bill Dodd, California Assemblywoman Cecilia Aguiar-Curry, leaders of local law enforcement, and several immigrant rights advocates.
Although the panelists approached the topic of immigration from different perspectives--politics, law enforcement, and advocacy--they all seemed to agree that a cloud of fear has surrounded the immigrant community since the November election. Fear was also evident in the questions asked by constituents who attended the meeting.
Congressman Thompson described his effort to convince the Secretary of Homeland Security that Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officers should not use the word “police” on their uniforms. Using this word can create confusion in the community about which branches of law enforcement are responsible for enforcing immigration laws and sows distrust of local police departments. Unfortunately, the Secretary refused to make any changes to the uniforms.
The two state legislators discussed legislation that recently passed the California Senate (SB 6) that would provide legal representation for immigrants facing deportation in California. The legislation is pending in the Assembly. The so-called “Sanctuary State” bill (SB 54) is also pending in the Assembly.
The most riveting remarks of the meeting were offered by a panelist who provided only her first name, “Karla.” She is both an immigration advocate and a participant in the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, which provides some legal benefits for certain undocumented young people who were brought to this country by their parents. Karla spoke movingly about her desire for all undocumented immigrants to have the same opportunities that she has had.