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Mayor, pro-immigrant groups slam immigration enforcement chief’s Sacramento forum

Sacramento protesters rally against tougher federal immigration enforcement

Sacramento community leaders protest a planned town hall with Thomas Homan, the acting head of the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency.
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Sacramento community leaders protest a planned town hall with Thomas Homan, the acting head of the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency.

Sacramento Mayor Darrell Steinberg took aim Monday at Sheriff Scott Jones’ decision to host a public forum with the nation’s top immigration enforcement official, calling the decision “cynical” and “mean.”

Steinberg said he will be joined by a large group of protesters before the Tuesday forum with Jones and acting Immigration and Customs Enforcement Director Thomas Homan. Labor unions, faith leaders and pro-immigrant groups are expected at the vigil, while state Senate President Pro Tem Kevin de León is expected to attend the forum.

“This is the worst time for an elected official to organize such a forum to stoke the fears of people, people who are already afraid,” Steinberg said. “We’re going to make it clear that the people of Sacramento stand with those who are just trying to make a place for themselves in our great country and in our great state.”

Steinberg said the start of the weekly City Council meeting would be delayed an hour – to 7 p.m. – so that he and other members of the council could attend the forum.

The event, scheduled to run from 5:30 to 7 p.m., had originally been planned for the Dr. Ephraim Williams Family Life Center in Oak Park, but was moved to the Sacramento County Youth Gym at 4000 Branch Center Road.

Jones said in a written statement he moved the forum location because of planned protests.

“Although I very much wanted this forum to take place within the community at a community center or church, a targeted effort by various protest groups have made that impossible,” Jones said. “Although this is disappointing, it is the very reason why such a direct community forum is necessary – to provide factual information to the community directly from their sources.”

The Trump administration has pledged to crack down on illegal immigration, which would include withholding federal money from cities such as Sacramento and counties that offer sanctuary to undocumented immigrants. On Monday, U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions said he was “urging states and local jurisdictions to comply with these federal laws.”

Jones said he organized the forum with Homan to “find common ground to reduce conflicting information, eliminate ambiguity and reduce fear.”

Community leaders staged a brief news conference Monday outside the Sacramento Sheriff’s Department headquarters in downtown Sacramento to speak out against Jones and the forum.

“We wanted to come here to send a very clear message: (Immigration and Customs Enforcement) is not welcomed here,” said Salvador Sarmiento of the National Day Laborer Organizing Network.

Sarmiento also delivered a public records request Monday to the Sheriff’s Department seeking communications between Jones’ office and the federal immigration agency about state Senate Bill 54. Authored by de León, the bill would prohibit local and state law enforcement from assisting ICE and other federal immigration authorities.

Jones has been a vocal critic of the bill, calling it “the latest in the ill-conceived basket full of poor public safety legislation” to come out of the Capitol.

“I have a strong belief that it violates federal law, and federal law reigns supreme,” Jones told reporters earlier this month.

Pastor Les Simmons of the South Sacramento Christian Center urged supporters of SB 54 and those concerned by deportations to attend the vigil before Homan’s public forum to “publicly state our support for immigrant families and those who are most at risk at this moment.”

“ICE is trying to instill fear in our immigrant communities here in California and in Sacramento,” Simmons said.

Ryan Lillis: 916-321-1085, @Ryan_Lillis

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