Immigration fears addressed at community meeting

Posted on November 17, 2016 by Sonoma Valley Sun

Speakers at a community meeting at La Luz Center about what a Trump presidency will mean for U.S. immigration policy set out to calm fears and offer advice Tuesday night.

It’s time, said Marcelo Defreitas, president of the La Luz board, “to start healing ourselves.”

Defreitas, told the largely Anglo crowd gathered on November 15 that as “a gay man, a Brazilian, a Latino,” he felt the challenges posed for himself and the community by the incoming administration in Washington.

Program director Veronica Vences said the purpose of the “cafecito” event — coffee and conversation — was to bring the community together. “It’s important that we stay united.”

In all, four local agencies sent representatives to explain the resources available to the community.

Davin Cárdenas from North Bay Organizing Project spoke passionately about the need to “draw democracy down,” to take control at the grass roots level.

“We need to inoculate ourselves against the hateful rhetoric,” he said. “We need to put our best face forward, our most dignified selves so the political climate doesn’t cause us to lose faith in ourselves.”

Cárdenas affirmed, “local democratic work doesn’t stop” with a presidential election. He urged support for the students in their peaceful protest actions.

Madeleine Feldon , an immigration attorney from the Napa office of International Institute of the Bay Area, spoke in Spanish then translated for herself. She clarified that a president cannot change a law, so that opportunities for citizenship and legal status cannot be changed by the new administration.

But, she said, DACA, Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, is an executive order and so can be rescinded by the new president, who has said he will do so. She advised young people who have been able to obtain work permits under DACA to renew now while it is still in effect.

She urged immigrants and those interested in these issues to attend the Know Your Rights workshop on December 6 at La Luz. Topics will include laws v. executive orders, and state v. federal law. Starting in January IIBA will have a lawyer at La Luz four days a week.

Sgt. Michelle Buchinagni of the Sonoma County Sheriff’s Office has recently returned to work in the Valley. She stated adamantly “We don’t deal with immigration issues. We deal with behaviors.”

She and Silvia Cortex-Floriano, community services officer for the Valley, added that they “don’t care what a person’s immigration status is.”

She affirmed that people who have been convicted of serious felonies, not misdemeanors are in danger of deportation.

An audience member warned people not to be lulled “by platitudes,” stressing that the record-keeping of the criminal justice system is “messed up.”

The law enforcement officers encouraged anyone who was planning an assembly to let them know, so they can protect the event and help keep it peaceful.

The crowd, which was over 90 percent white, then broke into small discussion groups. The constant conversational in the groups was the importance of unity. Participants offered to be a voice for the community, for the undocumented who may fear speaking up.

Juan Hernández, executive director of La Luz, closed the evening saying “our work has just doubled, but so has our strength.” He continued, “La Luz will do everything in our power to defend and support our people.”

— Anna Pier

Sonoma Sun | Sonoma, CA