Itara O’Connell: Non-sanctuary designation wrong move for Nevada County |

Itara O’Connell: Non-sanctuary designation wrong move for Nevada County

Other Voices
Itara O’Connell

I am opposed to making Nevada County a non-sanctuary county. It’s divisive and creates unnecessary fear, especially for those children who are afraid to go to school or afraid their parents will be deported without having committed any crime.

It is not illegal to be undocumented, it’s illegal to re-enter the country without documents after being deported. Even the undocumented have a right to due process.

I would like a path to citizenship for Dreamers. Over 80 percent of the country agrees that Dreamers should be given a path to citizenship. This is a group of people raised in America with no criminal record, either working or in school, paying taxes, raising their children here and buying homes. They are protected by DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) until March 2018. I do not want families torn apart where no crime has been committed. For those families working here, how about a work permit? This would allow people to come and go as their work requires.

For those who are worried about law enforcement, the sanctuary state is largely symbolic. It does not interfere with local law enforcement’s ability to do their job. It does not interfere with ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement) being able to do its job. It merely frees up local law enforcement from working for ICE. I have spoken personally to Sheriff Royal, Chief Gammelgard, Chief Foley, Captain Moon, and several law enforcement personnel — they all say Sanctuary state does not interfere with their ability to do their jobs. All local law enforcement state that they do not need to ask or know if a person is undocumented to arrest or detain him or her.

All violent undocumented criminals will be turned over to ICE as usual. According to Sheriff Royal, current law prohibits the sheriff from holding a detainee past his or her release date for the convenience of ICE. When a person is arrested, his or her fingerprints go to a national database. ICE can detain that person if they are a target. Nevada County is paid to hold jail beds open for these detainees. A sanctuary state protects children in schools, hospitals and courthouses from ICE raids. It also frees up local law enforcement to focus on local safety issues not helping ICE with its job.

I do not want our immigrant community afraid of reporting crimes. As reported in the New York Times (Nov. 27) ICE raids are happening in courts houses across America. This discourages even legal immigrants to report crimes. We have a system where undocumented immigrants are vulnerable to discrimination, persecution, and abusive tactics. Many are asked to work for little or no wages. We cannot have an informal system where we say, “come here and work but go away because we don’t want you here.” A work permit would be a simple and logical solution to this problem. We already have a J-1 visa program, so if a company needs help they can get it. This would also allow undocumented people to leave the country and re-enter when their work permits allow.

We also have to get over this racist idea that undocumented immigrants don’t contribute. First of all, they contribute to many sectors of our economy and come from many countries, not just Mexico. Many have come fleeing violence. Don’t forget, the United States armed and funded rebel armies in countries such as El Salvador to protect the dictators.

For those who say, “You’re welcome here, we just want you to come here legally.” I couldn’t agree more.

How about demanding our representatives issue work permits and allow people to come and go without fear of abusive tactics, deplorable detention centers and inhumane treatment?

Itara O’Connell lives in Grass Valley.

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