Healdsburg on Tuesday joined a growing number of local governments and schools affirming support for undocumented immigrants while assuring them that the police department will not assist with deportations.
An overflow crowd of about 150 people showed up to urge the City Council to take action to help protect immigrant workers, who make up the backbone of the wine, restaurant and hotel industry that defines the tourist-centric city.
Wine bottles from the Healdsburg area might as well say on them “grown, produced and bottled by immigrants,” Megan Glaab, winemaker and owner of Ryme Cellars, told the council. She said Healdsburg benefits from their hard work and “they deserve our support.”
More than 20 speakers, all in favor of the council taking a stand to resist the federal crackdown on immigration, shared stirring comments about the palpable fear in the Latino community that families will be torn apart.
“A lot of people are living in fear. They need to know people care about them,” said Alex Armstrong, chief executive officer of Alliance Medical Center, who said some patients are canceling medical appointments for fear they will get picked up by immigration authorities.
On a 5-0 vote, the council passed a resolution “acknowledging and embracing the community’s diversity and expressing the city’s commitment to non-discrimination.”
The council also agreed to work with nonprofit groups to help educate immigrants on their rights and obtain legal representation. It singled out Corazon Healdsburg, an agency that works closely with the Latino community to connect them with existing resources and services.
“We want to reaffirm our support for all members of our community and we value everyone here regardless of their immigration status,” Mayor Shaun McCaffery said. “They are valuable, contributing members of our society and it is important to let that be known.”
Healdsburg has a relatively high percentage of Latino residents — approximately 33 percent — compared to the overall 26 percent share of the population in Sonoma County that is Latino.
Police Chief Kevin Burke told the audience Tuesday that it has been the long-standing practice of the department not to detain individuals solely for immigration status.
“It won’t change,” he said. “It’s not our job.”
The discussion came as President Donald Trump’s administration prepares to crack down on illegal immigration.
And this week the administration signaled its intent to expand deportations for those in the country illegally, regardless of whether they have committed serious crimes.
Trump has threatened to cut off federal funds to jurisdictions that don’t cooperate.
Healdsburg in recent years has received anywhere from $900,000 to as much as $8.8 million a year in federal funds primarily for public safety, road projects and rehabilitating the Memorial Beach Bridge.
One speaker told the council that roads and bridges can be repaired four years from now, but “our hearts and communities can’t.”
A number of communities across California are expressing concerns about how to protect the immigrant population. Santa Rosa two weeks ago declared itself an “indivisible city” in an effort to express its support for undocumented immigrants without using the controversial term “sanctuary.”
A key piece of the Santa Rosa resolution said police shall not enforce federal civil immigration laws, investigate or apprehend persons solely on the basis of a possible violation of immigration law.