The Santa Rosa High School auditorium Sunday had the feel of part victorious political rally, part community party and part tent revival as Sonoma County's two largest law enforcement agencies announced they would begin accepting Mexican consular cards as a valid identification.
The cards will reduce the number of people booked into jail for lacking identification or for traffic offenses. And that will lead to fewer deportations from the jail.
The North Bay Organizing Project -- a coalition of immigration, labor, conservation and bicycle activists -- championed the cause and sponsored Sunday's rally.
On the auditorium stage, project members asked Sonoma County Sheriff's Office and Santa Rosa Police Department officials to state if their agencies would start accepting the Mexican ID cards.
Sonoma County Assistant Sheriff Lorenzo Dueñas answered in the affirmative.
"Claro," he said in Spanish, a response that prompted nearly 800 people into cheers, stomping and ear-piercing whistles.
"Today is a great day," Dueñas said in English. "We're now going to accept the matriculár consular ID."
Santa Rosa Police Capt. Hank Schreeder's similar response brought another roar of support. Both officials said their departments were being trained to recognize the cards -- and to spot counterfeits.
"We believe it's a shared responsibility and the Police Department is willing to share in that change," Schreeder said."
The cards are a rallying point for immigrant advocates who see them as a way to reduce the number of non-criminals being deported.
In the 12-month period ending in March, of the 921 immigrants turned over by the jail to immigration agents under federal Secure Communities program, 433 were not convicted of the offense that landed them in jail and another 225 were convicted of minor offenses.
These "non-criminals" -- a formal ICE designation -- neither had charges filed following their arrest nor were ever convicted of a local offense.