In the seven decades I’ve been fighting for social justice and human rights, I’ve never seen a year as scary as 2017.
The Trump administration is pushing a xenophobic agenda to deport millions of people and racially profile millions more. White supremacists are marching in public, committing heinous acts, and trying to influence public policy.
With bigots and extremists sinking to new lows across the country, all of us who believe in equality and inclusion need to reach higher than ever before.
I’m counting on California to lead the way.
As communities across the nation stand up against racism, California needs to create the strongest possible counterweight to Texas and Trump’s hate.
Case in point: A Texas Republican legislator recently said he called immigration agents on community members protesting the state’s draconian anti-immigrant law. What’s more, he reportedly threatened to shoot a fellow legislator.
It’s no accident these threats came in the context of Texas’s odious SB 4, which embodies President Donald Trump’s most extreme ideas. That law will enlist local police in the feds’ deportation force and unleash a wave of racial profiling and arrests targeting black and brown people.
As communities across the nation stand up against racism, California needs to create the strongest possible counterweight to Texas and Trump’s hate. Gov. Jerry Brown and our Legislature must pass Senate Bill 54, the California Values Act.
This proposal by Senate President Kevin de León will make sure our local and state resources aren’t used to help the Trump administration deport millions of people.
We know firsthand that when law enforcement acts as deportation agents, that further weakens the community’s trust and confidence. And families get broken apart.
Many Californians have rallied, marched and lobbied for the California Values Act, which would limit sharing personal information with Trump’s deportation force. Also called the “sanctuary state” bill, SB 54 would help make our schools, hospitals, courthouses and libraries safe spaces for everyone in our community.
This bill stands for the simple principle that authorities should treat everyone fairly, regardless of birthplace, background or appearance. To prevent abuses, SB 54 also makes sure law enforcement won’t detain anyone for deportation without a warrant signed by a judge.
That sounds like common sense to me.
Sadly, the California State Sheriff’s Association is going out of its way to oppose the California Values Act, even though amendments have been made to address safety considerations and Los Angeles police Chief Charlie Beck has endorsed the bill.
Honestly, I worry some of our sheriffs are more aligned with Trump and Texas Republicans than with our values in California.
Take Sheriff Donny Youngblood of Kern County, where the Dolores Huerta Foundation and the United Farm Workers are based. He worked to declare our county a “non-sanctuary” and previously stated he felt the county would fit much better in Arizona.
Just a few months ago, Sheriff Youngblood and six other sheriffs met with none other than Jeff Sessions, Trump’s extremist attorney general, before he had even been confirmed. The California State Sheriff’s Association endorsed Session’s nomination.
We should all be concerned about the implications of the sheriffs’ entanglement with Sessions’ extremist agenda.
Back in the 1980s, my friend Coretta Scott King wrote: “Sessions has used the awesome powers of his office in a shabby attempt to intimidate and frighten elderly black voters.” He also has documented connections to nativist, anti-immigrant groups.
And Sessions, along with Trump and the California State Sheriffs Association, doesn’t hesitate to scapegoat, criminalize and demonize immigrants whenever it’s convenient.
We simply cannot allow this kind of extremism to poison the conversation in California and derail our progress.
We must take a clear stand for our deepest values: All people are created equal and deserve due process.
Anything less is giving in to Trumpism.
Dolores Huerta is co-founder, with Cesar Chavez, of the United Farm Workers and president of The Dolores Huerta Foundation. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.