ICE arrests in Sonoma County prompt calls for immigrant protections

Immigrants and human rights advocates on Tuesday condemned a series of federal immigration arrests last week in Sonoma County, calling on local officials to enact stronger protections for undocumented communities.|

Immigrants and human rights advocates on Tuesday condemned a series of federal immigration arrests last week in Sonoma County, calling on local officials to enact stronger protections for undocumented communities.

The united message was delivered during a press conference outside the Sonoma County courthouse, where Immigration Customs and Enforcement agents arrested two men on Feb. 18 despite a new state law that bars civil immigration arrests at California courthouses.

Federal immigration officers attempted to detain a man in his southwest Santa Rosa home one day later, but left when he refused to come out of his home without seeing an arrest warrant.

By midweek, local attorneys and immigration advocates estimated a half-dozen men had been arrested in Sonoma County by federal immigration agents. Advocates feared the arrests indicated an escalation of federal enforcement activity in Sonoma County at a time of renewed public scrutiny by the Trump administration over sanctuary cities across the United States.

Tuesday’s event was a direct response to those arrests and was meant to bolster the voices of undocumented immigrants living in Sonoma County, whose families are ingrained in the area’s schools and have helped propel the area’s wine, food and tourism industries, among others, said Renee Saucedo, an organizer with Tuesday’s event.

County estimates have put the number of undocumented residents living in Sonoma County at about 25,000.

“The immigrant community is here to say ‘no more ICE presence in our community,’” Saucedo told the crowd of more than 60 people. “No more separations of our families and terrorism of our community.”

Attendees included representatives with North Bay Jobs with Justice, the volunteer immigration rights group Comite VIDA and the domestic worker advocacy group Women’s Action and Solidarity Alliance, which Saucedo oversees. Sonoma County Supervisors James Gore, Lynda Hopkins, Shirlee Zane and Susan Gorin joined the group near the end of the press conference, though none made a public comment.

The state law banning civil immigration arrests at California courthouses will not control how federal officers carry out their arrests, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement spokesman Jonathan Moor said in a statement Tuesday. The agency could not say how many people were arrested by its agents in Sonoma County last week, he added.

“Sanctuary policies not only provide a refuge for illegal aliens, but they also shield criminal aliens who prey on people in their own and other communities,” Moor said in the emailed statement.

Eliseo Dominguez, a Santa Rosa resident and member of the Graton Day Labor Center who described himself as a “citizen of the world,” said he was sad when he heard about the immigration activity in Sonoma County last week, news that stirred fear among the undocumented community. Immigrants do not want to feel like animals hunted by prey, nor be painted as criminals, he said.

“I live in this country to work and to better my life and the lives of my family,” said Dominguez, 26. “We are not criminals, we are a community of workers.”

Beatrice Camacho, a member of the North Bay Rapid Response Network, said the nonprofit will not rest until every person in Sonoma County lives without fear of ICE. The group dispatched volunteer legal observers to the home of the Santa Rosa man confronted by immigration agents last week after he called for help.

“We are organizing, we are responding and we are growing,” Camacho said. “We will continue to uphold the Constitution and everyone’s constitutional rights. Our hotline is here for you.”

A coalition of immigrant rights groups will convene again this week to coordinate meetings with Sonoma County’s elected officials about ways they can expand protections for Sonoma County’s undocumented residents, Saucedo said. The group also hoped to meet with officials at the Sonoma County Superior Court, she said, given that federal agents were able to enter the building to make one arrest last week.

“We need the courts to enforce the state law and train their security people to not allow in federal ICE agents unless they have warrants,” Saucedo said.

“We need to create a culture here where everyone is valued and embraced, no matter what their immigration status is.”

You can reach Staff Writer Nashelly Chavez at 707-521-5203 or

Nashelly Chavez

Diversity, Equity and Inclusion, The Press Democrat 

Who calls the North Bay home and how do their backgrounds, socioeconomic status and other factors shape their experiences? What cultures, traditions and religions are celebrated where we live? These are the questions that drive me as I cover diversity, equity and inclusion in Sonoma County and beyond.   


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