Hoiberg : Sanctuary For All

Mariah Castaneda for Voice of OC

Denise Lindstrom Le Blanc, who has been homeless for two years, now calls the bed of the Santa Ana River home.

On January 17th the Santa Ana city council passed its sanctuary city ordinance. It was a watershed moment as community activists and councilmembers came together in a rare show of solidarity passing the ordinance with no votes in opposition three days before Trump’s inauguration.

Indeed, the ordinance showcased the best of what Santa Ana has to offer its residents. When it was passed, the sanctuary city ordinance wasn’t just about curtailing ICE’s ability to continue its campaign of fear aided and abetted by local police, but also about offering protection to the disenfranchised and community to those of our neighbors forced to live afraid of their own city government.

Roberta Herrera, an activist with OC resilience summed up the sentiment of sanctuary best when she said of Santa Ana’s sanctuary city ordinance, “For us, Santa Ana will stand strong and be there for us, for the most vulnerable.”

Councilman Tinajero echoed this sentiment when he said of Santa Ana children with undocumented parents, “The reason you’re seeing this push now is that us leaders … want to tell them they are going to be protected. If they are going to come for them, they have to come through us first.”

Of course, the activists and community members that spent months pushing for Santa Ana’s sanctuary city ordinance behind the scene had to develop a more comprehensive conception of what sanctuary means to make their pitch.

In doing so, activists rightly addressed the consequences of draconian immigration policy head on. They made the case that criminalization of immigrants failed to further supposed public policy goals of public safety. Instead they demonstrated that the criminalization of immigrant families is rooted in racist misconceptions resulting from a deeply engrained culture of white supremacy.

They made the case that this culture of white supremacy actively tears families apart and limits the full-range of opportunities we expect for our friends. They transformed sanctuary into a form of community self-defense about protecting the people we know and see being wronged around us on a daily basis by cruel and indifferent systems.

Immigrant rights activists reminded us we owe a debt of justice to our neighbors: that it is our responsibility as members of a community to identify the disenfranchised and downtrodden among us and that we then have a duty to elevate their plight. In this way, the call for sanctuary is a call to action for a community.

That is why it hurts to see that Santa Ana refuses to extend sanctuary to our homeless friends and neighbors.

This Tuesday, the Santa Ana city council will consider an ordinance that furthers the criminalization of the civic center homeless population. It will deprive the least among us of tents to protect from the rain. It will limit their meager means to income through the banning of stored recyclables, unused bike parts, and the handyman’s tools of trade. It will make it a misdemeanor to possess chairs to sit in, rugs to lie on, and basic sports equipment. This ordinance even criminalizes those who wish to serve the homeless with their own time and money without explicit city permission, opening the way to strangling the civic center of services and supplies.

As is the case with the unjust persecution of immigrants, this ordinance is based pretenses to public safety concerns. It asks us to sacrifice the human dignity of our neighbors wholesale for marginal or nonexistent gains in public safety.

But how does taking shelter from the homeless make us safer? How does arresting those who would feed the hungry make us more secure?

Sanctuary means safe haven for the harassed, not more forced interaction with law enforcement. Sanctuary means protection of the most vulnerable members of our community. And the spirit of sanctuary means sanctuary for all. Show up on Tuesday and tell your city councilmember to act like it.

Jordan Hoiberg is a community activist with Housing is a Human Right OC, a Santa Ana resident, and Catholic Worker who specializes in homelessness advocacy. 

Opinions expressed in editorials belong to the authors and not Voice of OC.

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