An ebullient, caring community of more than 250 Sonomans rallied in the Plaza on Wednesday, September 6th in support of the Dreamers, the young people given a reprieve and some opportunities under former president Obama’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, or DACA. The rally was co-sponsored by the Sonoma Valley Democrats and Resist Sonoma in response to the Trump administration announcement the day prior that DACA would be eliminated in six months. The atmosphere was enthusiastic as ralliers, the majority from the Anglo community, gratefully embraced the opportunity to stand up and be counted with regard to this action by the present White House.
Initially the supporters faced Napa Street where their signs received lots of supportive honks from passing cars and a school bus. Part of the group then gathered in a circle to hear speakers. Amy Harrington represented the Sonoma City Council welcoming the crowd and affirming the council’s support for all immigrants. Mayor Rachel Hundley, unable to attend, sent her support in a message read by Beth Hadley of the SV Democratic Club. Representatives for Congressman Mike Thompson, State Senators Mike McGuire and Bill Dodd, and Assembly Member Mark Levine all affirmed those elected representatives’ support for DACA.
Community organizer Mario Castillo spoke about the hardship for the 800,000 DACA recipients to have to return to their circumstances of four years ago, living in fear, with few job or educational opportunities. Reminding the crowd that there are 11 million undocumented immigrants in the U.S., Castillo pointed out that beyond DACA what is needed is complete immigration reform. He drew lots of applause when he asked what the churches, the nonprofits, the businesses and the wine industry are doing for immigrants. Closing, he encouraged each person present to make this an opportunity to commit to becoming more involved to work for a more just society.
Denia Candela, local woman and Sonoma State statistics major, spoke with confidence about the contributions she and fellow-DACA recipients are making in our society. Activist Dmitra Smith also urged ralliers to action against all manifestations of racism.
Lucy Benz-Rogers, immigration attorney for the International Institute of the Bay Area who provide legal services at La Luz, encouraged all DACA recipients to consult with her. She stated that anyone holding a DACA that expires before March 6, 2018 can apply for the two-year extension. She also advised DACA people not to travel out of the country at present. Benz-Rogers can be reached at 707.939.8864 or 707.226.1568.