Cortez: Will Santa Ana’s Latino City Council Side With Human Rights Or With ICE and Trump?

As the size the Latino vote grows and anti-immigrant bigots react by sounding their alarms louder and louder, we have been witness to a growing refrain that seeks to channel the energy of one and response to the other into electoral victories for Democrats and an increase in the number of Latinos elected to office at all levels of government.

Time and again we’re told that the answer to what ails us is to stand by in support of the Democratic Party and to help put more Latinos in positions of power—never mind the fact that it is a Democratic president who just launched a series of inhumane raids against women and children as the latest piece of the largest mass deportation campaign in US history, and that a Latina Director of Domestic Policy continues to act as the biggest defender of that campaign.

Tonight, all of this will be front and center in Santa Ana, California.

Over the weekend we learned that Santa Ana’s all-Latino, all-Democratic city council will vote on a proposal to increase the maximum number of LGBTQ and other detainees the city can imprison for ICE at its jail, a facility denounced by the undocumented LGBTQ community which most recently made headlines for the continued abuses and dehumanization its detainees face inside.

The vote set to take place on Tuesday is in many ways a test of seeing if people who look like us in office means Latino and immigrant issues are actually better represented or not. The fact that the proposal is even on the docket is a knock against that theory of change and a reminder that community’s first source of power is when we organize.

Having just experienced a series of traumatic raids; increased attacks and promises of further attacks from Donald Trump and his supporters; and worst of all a doubling down on the part of President Obama to further criminalize, detain, and deport our communities we are looking toward our local governments for leadership more than ever. Offering jail space to ICE is enabling and being an accomplice to its attack on our community. Instead, our expectation is that the City Council put into place policies that welcome, rather than abuse immigrants, and that they demonstrate a commitment to justice and dignity, not detention and abuse.

To this end the Santa Ana City Council should not only reject the expansion of the number of LGBTQ and other immigrants they will hold for ICE in the city jail, but take steps to further disentangle the government of Orange County’s most Latino, most immigrant city by separating the Santa Ana Police Department from the dirty work of deportation. Like Philadelphia did most recently, it should reject ICE’s request to submit to its newest quota-filling program, PEP-comm.

Our community and our families deserve nothing less.

With Donald Trump leading the country in one direction, now is when our city council’s leadership on human and immigrant rights is both being tested and is needed most.

Hairo Cortes is the Program Coordinator of the Orange County Immigrant Youth United. He immigrated to the United States at the age of seven and has been a resident of Santa Ana, CA ever since. Follow on twitter: @HCortes96