SanTana councilman Jose Solorio's plan to revive the city's jail contract with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) last night ended with him being branded "Latino Trump" in defeat. The federal agency abruptly decided to pull out of the longstanding Intergovernmental Service Agreement on February 23, citing previous council action to reduce the maximum number of detainees down from 200 to 128. But Solorio just couldn't let it go.
"We direct staff to negotiate and execute a contract with ICE consistent with the terms of 2006 contract," Solorio said in making a motion during last night's city council meeting. He also wanted meetings with Service Employees International Union Local 721 and the Santa Ana Police Officers Associations to negotiate staffing at the city jail. Only SEIU Local 721 President Mike Lopez backed Solorio's call.
"We support the philosophy of the sanctuary city," Lopez noted. "It is the mayor and city council's responsibility to stand up for all its citizens...by first making the vigorous attempt to continue the federal contract and avoid another loss of revenue that may translate to more loss of services to our community."
But after that, if Solorio hadn't shaved his mustache, it would have been beaten off him politically last night. Audience members held up protest signs reading "End the ICE Contract!" and every activist who took the podium after Lopez shamed the effort. "Council member Solorio, to me and many in our community, [has] become the local Latino Trump!" said Jorge Gutierrez of the Transgender Law Center. The jab would later come to haunt the councilman.
"Let's not have Santa Ana be the home for an interment prison for transgender women," said Laura Kanter, Director of Policy, Advocacy and Youth Programs for the LGBT Center OC. "I had a conversation with council member Solorio and he expressed his concern for the transgender women, but when I brought up that we need to talk about resources, and we need to talk about what we can do to get these women released, the conversation always ends there." Two former transgender detainees spoke out about the conditions inside the jail, with one woman deeming them "terrifying."
"Detentions are still going to occur," Solorio stated in his defense. "Deportations are still going to occur." He read a letter by an unnamed SanTana immigration attorney who argued that the ICE contract was beneficial for local detainees seeking legal counsel and regular visits from nearby family as opposed to being held at an out of state facility. The councilman followed by stating that ICE isn't going to release anybody.
"That's a lie!" activists shouted.
Nothing Solorio argued, from warning of the poor conditions at the privately run Adelanto facility to the elimination of good-paying union jobs, helped sway unpopular opinion against him. "Some of you don't know what real hurt is," Solorio fired back. The callous comment riled the audience up even more. "Vendido!" they shouted. "Sell out!" And just when it seemed the night couldn't go any worse for Solorio, council chambers began echoing with chants of "Latino Trump!"
The council took a fifteen-minute recess, giving an embattled Solorio a breather. He left chambers to an encore serenade of "Latino Trump!" Mayor Miguel Pulido reemerged ready to fast track the vote on Solorio's motion with the night already running long and his colleagues weary. Without any further discussion, police association-funded councilmen Solorio, Pulido and Juan Villegas ended up deadlocking 3-3, killing their hopes of the ICE contract being revived.
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As it stands, the contentious agreement is scheduled to expire in mid-May with less than 100 detainees still being housed. The city currently collects $340,000 in monthly revenue from it but stares down $3 million in annual jail debt.
Activists gathered outside of council chambers to revel in cementing their victory, while also turning attention to the fight ahead. Orange County Immigrant Youth United is helping to organize legal assistance for those that remain at the jail, but without Solorio's fear mongering.
"Four people were released under parole in just the last two days and more are on the way," said Faby Jacome, OCIYU's Deportation Defense Organizer. "The transfers that have happened are not because of the ICE contract ending. They were already scheduled."