Earlier this year in February, Eureka- based cultural organization Centro del Pueblo hosted a rally on the front steps of the Humboldt County Courthouse that kicked off an initiative to get the county to pass a Sanctuary Ordinance. This piece of legislation would deter the efforts of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and create a safer environment for local folks who are undocumented.
Since then, community leaders at Centro del Pueblo have been working to get at least 8,000 signatures to safely reach the 4,000 valid signatures from registered voters in Humboldt County that are required for the Board of Supervisors to approve the initiative as a votable measure on the ballot in November. The petition is due on April 30 and as of April 2, there are about 2,996 signatures.
“Why do we need a sanctuary law in Humboldt? Because undocumented families in our county are terrified… This sanctuary law proposal represents our community standing up for ourselves and saying, ya basta.”
“We are on overdrive mode, attending every event that’s happening in the community whether it’s in Arcata, McKinleyville, Eureka, Fortuna, just really trying to get 2,000 more signatures,” said Kevin Martinez, a Humboldt State University student and member of MEChA and Centro del Pueblo.
California Senate Bill 54, signed by Governor Jerry Brown in November of 2017, already limits state and local law enforcement’s cooperation with ICE. However, if the Sanctuary Ordinance gets taken to a vote and passes, Humboldt County residents will be able to rest assured that from midnight to 8 a.m. they are safe from raids and cannot be detained without a federal warrant as long as their criminal record satisfies the requirements of the federal government. It will also allow parents who get detained to have a say in who will care for their children in their absence.
“Federal policy will always oversee local policy,” Martinez said. “We can just make it harder for them to do their job. They’re not just showing up at the courthouse. They’re showing up to the hospital and the farms and things like that, so this is needed now more than ever.”
The ordinance challenges the Trump Administration’s crackdown on the enforcement of immigration policies and is a right that locals have “to petition the government for a redress of grievances” according to the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. With promises from the current top immigration chief to intensify the presence of agents throughout the state of California, communities like Humboldt County with large undocumented communities are especially motivated to protect its people.
“I’m going to significantly increase our enforcement presence in California,” acting ICE director Thomas Homan said in an interview with Fox News in January. “We’re already doing it. We’re going to cdetail additional law enforcement access to California. California better hold on tight. They’re about to see a lot more special agents, a lot more deportation officers in the state of California.”
Community members at Centro del Pueblo are spearheading the initiative by holding meetings and events to gather signatures and raise awareness of the potentially votable measure. The next upcoming meeting is on April 7 from 12-2 p.m. at the United Congressional Church in Eureka on 900 Hodgson St.
“The term sanctuary, at least when it’s referring to the local government and particularly the countywide jurisdiction,” Martinez said. “Sends a message to the local immigrant community that there are county officials that are making this conscientious objection to federal policy and they want to be there for you.”
When contacted for a comment, multiple members of the Board of Supervisors did not answer calls to their office.
Renee Saucedo, a leading force at Centro del Pueblo, is working with team members to organize effective ways to gather supporters’ signatures and educate local folks on the community’s need for legal protection of undocumented people.
“Why do we need a sanctuary law in Humboldt? Because undocumented families in our county are terrified that they will be reported to ICE and forcibly separated from their children, families, and loved ones,” Saucedo said at the rally in February. “We are human beings and we deserve to be treated with dignity. This sanctuary law proposal represents our community standing up for ourselves and saying, ya basta.”