A huge crowd energized to oppose President Donald Trump’s immigration policies descended on Santa Rosa City Hall Tuesday urging city leaders to declare the city a sanctuary for those living here without documentation despite the administration’s threat of federal funding cuts for cities that fail to cooperate with immigration agents.
Much like the defiant crowds that took to city streets last month during the Women’s March, one of the largest crowds to attend a City Council meeting in recent memory packed the council chambers and spilled outside to demand the city protect residents seen as vulnerable to deportation under what many view as an increasingly capricious Trump presidency.
“We’re talking about families, workers in vineyards, restaurants and service industries, schoolchildren and grandparents,” said Chaney Delaire. “We’re talking about people who are part of our community, who pay taxes and provide services.”
Councilman Ernesto Olivares, the only Latino on the seven-member council, seemed genuinely moved by the outpouring of support for the immigrant community, of which the retired police lieutenant counts himself a member.
“In my 56 years as an immigrant from Mexico, I have never ever felt as welcome as I do today, and I want to thank you for being here,” Olivares said.
The council voted unanimously to take up the matter of whether to declare the city a sanctuary, or a similar term such as “welcoming city,” at next Tuesday’s council meeting, virtually the earliest date council procedures allow.
It also directed city staff to detail the implications of such a move for the city’s finances, relationship with federal agencies and law enforcement practices.
Much like the Women’s March, most of those who came to the meeting, many wearing red clothing, said they were mobilized by calls to action on social media. Much of the organizing was done through Facebook by a group called Community Action Coalition. Assistant Fire Marshal Paul Lowenthal estimated the total crowd size including overflow areas at 350 to 400 people.
Quenby Dolgushkin, 28, wore a red knit cap and held up a sign that captured the sentiment of many in the audience, which spilled into the courtyard and overflow room: “No Human is Illegal. Santa Rosa Sanctuary Now.”
City Manager Sean McGlynn kicked off the meeting with a statement extolling the valuable role immigrants have played in state history, the city’s commitment to diversity and the police department policy toward immigration status. He said there are about 29,000 undocumented immigrants in Sonoma County.
“I want to assure our entire community that Santa Rosa police officers do not engage in law enforcement action based on a person’s immigration status alone and we have no plans to change this longstanding policy,” McGlynn said. “Nothing about the president’s executive order will change how our police officers protect and serve all of our residents.”
And yet Trump’s proposal to bar residents of seven majority-Muslim counties for 90 days and block the admission of refugees for 120 days appears to have confirmed people’s fears that he intends to make good on campaign promises many assumed were bluster.
Mayor Chris Coursey said it was now clear Trump’s remarks should be taken literally, and local communities need to take a closer look at how they can protect vulnerable residents.