2017-06-15 / Community

Demonstrators call on Irwin to take stand on immigration bill

By Hector Gonzalez


Irwin Irwin A demonstration in Camarillo in late May supporting a bill to make California a sanctuary state got heated when one woman, waving a “yes” sign above her head, slipped behind a group of people protesting the proposed law.

“Donald Trump is a nasty pig and you know it!” she screamed over and over.

A few minutes later, an elderly woman abandoned her spot along the curb and confronted the sign-waver.

“Oh, you shut up!” she shouted, shaking a finger.

A brief skirmish broke out as the two women squared off and exchanged insults for about a minute before the argument died out amid car horns and bullhorns.

It was probably the most serious clash between opposing demonstrators who gathered May 31 outside the office of Assemblymember Jacqui Irwin (D-Camarillo) on Daily Drive to urge her to support—or oppose—the bill, SB 54, proposed by state Sen. Kevin de León (D-Los Angeles).

The standoff between the two groups mirrored the larger national debate over the question of immigration. For Californians, de León’s bill, officially called the California Values Act, is now at the forefront of the debate.

Chants of “No borders!” and “No deportation squads!” drowned out calls to “build the wall!” More than 100 demonstrators in favor of SB 54, including members of citizens’ action groups, labor unions, the clergy and Latino associations, outnumbered 30 or so residents who came on their own from around Ventura County to oppose the bill.

Although SB 54 would bar state agencies from contacting federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents, supporters at the rally said lawmakers added an amendment to the bill that allows agencies to grant ICE requests to interview illegal immigrant inmates once they’re convicted of crimes and are serving prison or jail time.

Unlike the Trust Act of 2013, a state law that grants ICE access to a suspect held in jail before they go on trial, SB 54 requires a conviction before access is allowed.

But critics, including Ventura County Sheriff Geoff Dean, say the bill, which bars local police from asking suspects about their immigration status, virtually guarantees a free pass to serious criminals who are in the country illegally.

An email to de León’s office seeking a response was not returned.

Among those outside Irwin’s office, opinions about SB 54 were strongly divided.

“Technically, California is already a sanctuary state. We became a sanctuary state when Gov. Jerry Brown signed the Trust Act in 2013,” Simi Valley resident Joe Panzarello said.

“But these open-borders, proamnesty, liberal Democrats, they want the actual name of a sanctuary for the state—that’s what SB 54 is about.”

Raul Lopez, a community organizer for Central Coast Alliance United for a Sustainable Economy, or CAUSE, disagreed.

“Nobody is saying we should shield criminals. That’s not what SB 54 is about,” he said above the din of protesters.

“People are supposed to be innocent until proven guilty. So what happened to that basic right for the undocumented people? These are people who haven’t been convicted yet of any crimes.”

CAUSE was among about a dozen local organizations urging Irwin to support SB 54. Other groups were Suburban Women’s Advocacy Network (SWAN), Clergy and Laity United for Economic Justice-Ventura County, East Ventura County Concerned Collective, League of United Latin American Citizens, and Future Leaders of America.

“We’re out here and we want to be heard that immigration rights are a human right,” said Agoura Hills resident Linda Kuban, a member of SWAN

While the pro-SB 54 demonstrators listened to speakers on the sidewalk, a small delegation of about six people representing the group walked into Irwin’s office.

Asked in an email about what was discussed in the meeting, Irwin’s spokesperson, Andrew Munson, responded that the delegation “shared stories about their lives as immigrants in the U.S.”

Irwin, who was in Sacramento during the demonstration, issued a statement May 31 saying she hasn’t yet made up her mind about SB 54.

“As with all measures before me for a vote, I seek input from my constituents to ensure that my vote in Sacramento supports measures that make sense for Ventura County,” she said.

“As I have shared previously, I agree with many of the goals of SB 54. I will continue to follow developments as it is debated and analyzed through the Assembly committee process.”

Lopez said his group and its allies plan to continue pushing for SB 54’s passage.

“My intention is to make her hear that message in any way possible, through the media, through voters,” Lopez said. “Our organization, we get out there. We organize. We register voters. We do everything we can to get people involved in the democratic process.”

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