Illuminating Support for Immigrants

Sanctuary Santa Cruz offers words of hope to undocumented residents

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Threats of deportation are intensifying across the nation. Local organization Sanctuary Santa Cruz recognized increasing tension in undocumented communities with a candlelit vigil held at the downtown Santa Cruz Town Clock on Dec. 2.

“It’s important for us as a community to share that we are aware of what’s going on and how it might affect our community,” said Gabriela Cruz, Sanctuary Santa Cruz volunteer, vigil organizer and Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) recipient.

About 30 community members attended the vigil, including Santa Cruz City Council members Chris Krohn and Sandy Brown, demanding the city government do its part to strengthen the city’s sanctuary status.

“Our city is a sanctuary city for all of our residents,” Brown said. “We have to say loudly to our Santa Cruz City Council that we must put real money to help residents [who] have been detained by ICE [Immigration and Customs Enforcement].”

Aside from city funding, there is a necessity for implementing policy that allocate resources to support undocumented people, said Sanctuary Santa Cruz organizer Jim Weller. He said the City Council unanimously voted to appoint a subcommittee designated to protecting the rights of immigrants.

While increasing resources for the immigrant community has been discussed in a few meetings, City Council has yet to form the subcommittee.

In the meantime, Sanctuary Santa Cruz created a community alert network to notify undocumented residents if ICE enters Santa Cruz. This was established in response to the mass ICE raids made in cooperation with the Santa Cruz Police Department this past February. The alert program is designed to document evidence of ICE raids, although raids are often targeted at individuals, making them difficult to track, Weller said.

City on a Hill Press (CHP) revealed earlier this year that undocumented individuals who are incarcerated may receive a letter from ICE informing the individual of their rights if ICE is waiting for them upon release. CHP also reported that county sheriffs disclose release dates of undocumented inmates.

Sanctuary Santa Cruz members hoped the vigil would draw attention to various national and international immigration issues, such as the 60,000 Haitian immigrants losing their temporary status protection to live in the U.S. Gabriela Cruz said the larger problem is that temporary status programs do not pave the way for permanent citizenship.

Speakers at the vigil said they will continue fighting for immigrant protection, while also addressing the many consequences of losing DACA and the risk of ICE raids in Santa Cruz.

“Our community stands behind [immigrants],” Cruz said. “Especially the people who are not as vocal and are suffering behind closed doors, in fear of deportation and that their DACA will expire.”