By Sebastian Cazares
As a lifelong resident of Santa Clarita, the City Council meeting on SB 54 (the sanctuary state bill that bars cooperation with federal immigration authorities to protect certain undocumented immigrants) was one of the most intense and embarrassing moments I have ever experienced in SCV. Polarizing partisan politics didn’t make our community safer; it sent a divisive message that will alienate and infuriate many.
Arriving at the protest around 4 p.m., I entered a battleground – a true reflection of a split nation. The pro-SB 54 protest I was a part of tried not to engage the anti-sanctuary group. While the Sheriff’s Department made sure the rally was safe, hateful rhetoric from the Trump protesters was nothing close to peaceful and respectful. Some of them yelled bigoted remarks, slurs, damned us to hell, and even sexually inappropriate comments were made to an activist during the meeting itself.
You would think once the meeting started, that decorum would be enforced. Not at all. I respect Mayor Weste and the council members’ efforts to quiet the audience when disruptive, and their commitment to hear both sides and give each speaker a full three minutes. But even when the anti-sanctuary group was incredibly loud, disrespectful, and openly making terrible comments to speakers, not a single individual was removed.
People on the left that instigated confrontation should be condemned as well. However, one of the reasons the meeting was so disturbing was the fact that dozens of Trump supporters came from other cities to intimidate Santa Clarita residents. Many were social media activists who came from areas like Northridge, such as Kira Innis, harassing speakers and making the media paint a false narrative that all of the SCV populace is against SB 54.
While SCV is more Republican, it is still an almost split community. CA-25 has more registered Democrats than Republicans, and voted blue in the 2016 presidential election. The May 8 City Council meeting actually had speakers with a more even stance on SB 54, yet the large group of Trump protesters from other areas that stacked this meeting provided the perfect opportunity for Bob Kellar to advance his polarizing agenda on Fox News. Kellar claimed on Laura Ingraham’s show that the room favored challenging sanctuary “nine to one.”
So what will the amicus brief accomplish? Will it reduce crime? Every single council member said that this issue was only about criminal aliens, even though the bill was revised to provide many crimes that were exceptions to sanctuary. Its main intentions are to protect non-violent immigrants. Speakers read countless data and investigations on non-sanctuary cities leading to distrust of law enforcement and causing the undocumented to report crimes at incredibly low rates out of fear.
Was it about morality and humanity? My speech to the council discussed my family’s immigrant experience from Mexico and Puerto Rico, the need to consider ICE’s spike in deportation for immigrants with no criminal records, and the rape, abuse, and torture at detention centers. I pleaded to them to consider an anonymous classmate of mine who recently received DACA status and the fear she lives in for her family. They didn’t care. The council still voted unanimously to defy SB 54. The individuals who harassed us were emboldened. They won.
I’ve never been so embarrassed of my city.
Sebastian Cazares is a member of Students NextUP, a coalition of progressive high school and college students from throughout the 25th Congressional District and beyond.