Community leaders and pro-immigrant advocates showed up outside Fresno County Sheriff’s Office to protest Sheriff Margaret Mims’ remarks during her visit last week to the White House and to paint her as out of touch in a county that has benefited from undocumented immigrnats.
“Sanctuary laws help our community report crimes without fear of being asked about their immigration status,” said Samuel Molina, California director of Mi Familia Vota.
Mims, who was first elected in 2006, struck a pro-President Donald J. Trump outlook on California’s sanctuary state status during her May 16 White House visit.
Those comments did not sit well with pro-immigrant groups, who protested outside her downtown Fresno office on Monday (May 21). A little more than 30 people took part in the early afternoon protest.
They believe that in an area where farmers depend heavily on undocumented labor, Mims’ cooperation with federal immigration officials is wrong.
During her visit, which received national media attention, Mims stated that, “Trump will help law enforcement fight sanctuary state restrictions.”
According to advocates, more than 10 million immigrants call California home, including the Central Valley.
Advocates said Mims is doing the exact opposite of what she should be doing, which is protect the community and asked her to stand with the community and do the right thing.
“California’s sanctuary laws protect those who have committed crimes, get arrested, then booked into our local jails. Many of those crimes are committed against those in our immigrant community,” said Mims in an statement delivered to media outlets before the demonstration outside her office started.
“We need to work together, to communicate, we need to articulate our concerns, and we need to be able to express our feelings and our feelings are fixed bags. Some of us feel sad, some of us feel angry, some of us are confuse and some of have a voice and we can’t say because we are afraid that as soon as we say something, our voice will be taken away,” said Willie López, representing El Concilio de Fresno.
Brisa Cruz, Central California Organizer with the California Immigrant Youth Justice Alliance, said Mims’ anti-immigrant agenda dates back to long before the California Values Act (SB 54) was signed into law.
SB 54 ensures that no state or local resources are diverted to fuel any attempt by the federal government to carry out mass deportations and that our schools, our hospitals, and our courthouses are safe spaces for everyone in our community.
“In 2015, she came out publicly announcing what she called her pilot program which allows ICE agents to come into the county jail,” Cruz said, adding that since the program started 500 people have been deported under this program.
Michael D. Evans, chair of the Fresno County Democratic Party, said that “Mims’ peculiar county sanctuary policy protects primarily wealthy, white people, whereas the state sanctuary policy protects primarily lower-income people of color. Her approach is classist and racist.”
Evans called on Mims to respect California’s sanctuary state law and to focus on ensuring adequate law enforcement protection for everyone in our community.
Mims fired back in her press statement.
“The law protects these criminals at the expense of the safety and well-being of those who are hard-working, law abiding community members and limits communications with federal law enforcement partners,” Mims said.
In support of Mims’ actions and her meeting with President Donald Trump in Washington, D.C. early this month was Ben Bergquam holding a sign on his left hand that read “No DACA, No Amnesty. Build the wall defund sanctuary” on one side while holding an iPhone on his right hand to live stream the protest to his followers.
“If you are here illegally you , you have no right to be here,” said Bergquam, who added that he was not racist. “I support legal immigration.”