By Samuel Paramore
For a long time, Orange County’s preferred public image proclaimed itself a white suburban wonderland. The hard-working immigrant communities that are its backbone are made to be unseen, save for when they’re bashed for political expediency. Immigrants, undocumented or not, are always exploited for their labor and when it comes to their concerns and needs, the county breaks out the brooms to sweep ’em away.
But things are slowly changing. Decades of hard work and struggle by undocumented activists here cast away the shadows immigrant communities lived under. They helped net a major win in the form of the California Values Act (also known as SB 54). This state law provides greater due process for undocumented immigrants and makes schools and hospitals “safe zones.” SB 54 also prevents state and local funds from being allocated towards federal immigration enforcement.
This is important, as Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) has been one of the most oppressive forces in our community since forming in 2003. Recent examples include an investigative report by The Intercept detailing detention facilities rife with sexual assaults with no accountability for the victims. Also, for all hubbub about MS-13, ICE’s actions have only perpetuated violence and put in danger those undocumented immigrant who tried to help stop gang activities. Sounds like an agency immigrants need protections from, especially with a deportation machine licking its chops for mass removals, doesn’t it?
Of course, there was going to be backlash based on racist fear and what more predictable place for it to happen than in Orange County? The wave began on Mar. 19 with the charter city Los Alamitos moving forward with an ordinance to opt-out of SB 54, symbolically aligning with Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ lawsuit against California over its Sanctuary State laws. At the meeting, a majority of council members had their mind made up long before the 4-1 vote. This was not a decision made in favor of the community, as most were offended that they were making an issue out of it.
Over the past few weeks, anti-immigrant hate felt emboldened. Huntington Beach, Fountain Valley, and Aliso Viejo city councils are just a few that followed in Los Alamitos’ footpath one way or another. These decisions mostly act as celebratory window-dressing for a hateful agenda pushed by the Federation for Immigration Reform in America (FAIR), a Southern Poverty Law Center designated hate group. SanTana, a Sanctuary City, filed court documents in support of California in the Sessions suit, going the opposite direction.
In the end, the importance of these meetings pale in comparison to the final vote for the Los Alamitos ordinance scheduled for this evening. If the ordinance passes, it will be a major deciding factor in the path OC goes down. Expect more of the opposition to appear against the Know Nothings, the live stream losers, propagators of fear, and those who see all politics as a principal form of entertainment. But we don’t just expect the numbers and strength of our community to show-up ten-fold; we guarantee it!
Whatever the council decides this evening, immigrants from all backgrounds and statuses will never be pushed back into the shadows again. Even if we are not the victors of this battleground, the moral arc of OC’s history will bend towards us.