Amidst Intimidation, Pursuit of Sanctuary Status Prevails

By Samantha Alsina on February 22, 2017

Just last week in the early hours of the morning, a small sector of the Santa Cruz community experienced a violent raid that led to multiple arrests. The news traveled by word of mouth throughout the community including to many undocumented students at UCSC.

The lack of transparency was immediately felt. It led to an unclear story of what was going on and raised pertinent questions on the extent in which the Santa Cruz Police Department was cooperating with Homeland Security and by extension, with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).

The raid induced panic for many undocumented people living in Santa Cruz.

Although it was later clarified that the raid was linked to a years-long investigation conducted by Monterey Police Department into gang activity with MS13 (also known as Mara Salvatrucha), it remained unclear on how Santa Cruz would deal with federal agents in the future.

statue of liberty

Image via Pixabay

The legitimizing of an immigration raid due to “gang activity” comes at the cost of criminalizing an entire sector of the Santa Cruz community. It undermines community trust in the local police department and dangerously anticipates the likelihood that many will not cooperate with local enforcement in the future.

This is one of many examples that reflect the ongoing hostility towards those living undocumented. With Trump’s continuous attacks on immigration, the questions on what will become of many undocumented people living in the US remains unclear.

For those living in the US under federal programs such as the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), the future is a precarious one. Just today, the Department of Homeland Security issued two new memos extending the power of federal agents to immediately deport immigrants.

Although the memos maintain that the priority for deportation is those criminally convicted, it also gave power to border patrol agents and immigration officers to deport anyone who has been criminally charged even if they were not convicted on those charges. Very few exceptions to deportation were listed in the memos, predominantly for children. Even those listed as low priority under the Obama administration are now open targets for deportation.

Up until the raid, the city has failed to make it a priority to make Santa Cruz a sanctuary city. In response to the raid, about 100 protesters disrupted last week’s city council meeting demanding an urgent address of the city’s lack of sanctuary status.

In order to make Santa Cruz a “sanctuary city,”  the city must have its own legal definition of “sanctuary” and standards of procedure on how to not cooperate with federal agents.

Before the raid, the Santa Cruz City Council had deferred action on making Santa Cruz a “sanctuary city” by suggesting other options that were more non-binding and weaker in contrast to a sanctuary status.

It wasn’t until the mounting pressures on last week’s city council meeting in reaction to the Monday morning’s raid that a decision was finally set. On February 28th, the city council staff intend to have a provisional update on the sanctuary resolution for the city.

American Flag

Image via Pixabay

Although this is to be applauded as a right step in the right direction, it should be clear how the city was more reactive to mounting pressure rather than being pro-active agents.

Whether it is a lack of priority for undocumented people or a lack of knowledge about the issues that undocumented people are facing, the people need to be weary in thinking that people will act on their liberal beliefs of inclusivity.

Trump’s policy and rhetoric has made many cities and sanctuary campuses intimidated in utilizing the title of “sanctuary.” By the claims of retracting federal funding, the fear mongering politics is a coercive element of today’s plight for sanctuary status.

As as result, many cities and universities have found themselves at odds with their beliefs. Santa Cruz is no exception to this. In the face of duress, communities need to remember where their values lie even under threat of federal funding being retracted.

By Samantha Alsina

Uloop Writer
I'm a junior at UC Santa Cruz pursuing a degree in Literature with a concentration in Creative Writing. I enjoy writing on intersecting issues including politics, entertainment, and art. When I am not writing articles and critical essays, I dally in poetry and short fiction. I hope to work in publishing one day.

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