Stand up for immigrants, Mr. Newsom

Pub date April 3, 2007
SectionNews & OpinionSectionOpinion

OPINION President George W. Bush’s war on immigration is wreaking havoc on San Francisco’s immigrant community. Across the Bay Area and in San Francisco, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officials have been carrying out raids at homes and workplaces, near schools, and, in broad daylight, on the streets. Hundreds of immigrants have been deported, devastating families, separating parents from United States–born children, and leaving entire neighborhoods in a state of fear.

There are few other neighborhoods that feel the ICE war more than the Mission District, the Latino heart and soul of San Francisco. So it was especially painful to sit through a two-hour town hall meeting orchestrated by Mayor Gavin Newsom on March 26 at César Chávez Elementary School in the Mission. Never once did he acknowledge vocal community members’ concerns over ICE sweeps and civil rights abuses. Instead, as predicted, he kept to the script, selecting two dozen questions out of 70 that were submitted by more than 250 attendees. Despite the loud chants, luchadores dressed in capes and masks, and bold visuals that called for a stop to the ICE raids, the mayor continued to talk and talk and talk some more about the health care access initiative.

Health care access is an important issue — residents and workers throughout the city appreciate the mayor’s efforts and welcome any relief for the thousands of uninsured, low-income, and undocumented residents of San Francisco. But right now the streets of the city are hot, and immigrant families are scared to leave their homes, send their kids to school, go to work, or even seek medical care at General Hospital for fear of being swept up, displaced, and deported.

Fortunately, there are some protections in the city. In 1989 the immigrant-rights movement, with the support of elected officials, established the sanctuary ordinance, which bars city officials, the Police Department, and other city agencies from cooperating with federal immigration officials. But in light of the most recent aggression, the time has come for our mayor and our elected officials to do more.

In 2004, in a rightful act of civil disobedience, a defiant Newsom stood up for justice by marrying same-sex couples, a landmark event in US civil rights history. It’s time for the mayor to once again stand up for justice by supporting the immigrants who make great contributions to this city and the nation.

Mayor Newsom, show us that your stance on civil rights has no limits and is inclusive of immigrant workers and families. Show us that you were not just currying favor or seeking votes but are truly committed to all civil rights issues.

Join with us:

March with the immigrant community to protest the ICE raids.

Convene a meeting with ICE officials, Rep. Nancy Pelosi, Senators Barbara Boxer and Dianne Feinstein, and community members.

Increase city resources for legal and educational services that help immigrants get on the pathway to legalization.

Support the current day-laborer center and use day laborers’ input in the future expansion and creation of worker centers.

Support the immigrant-led planning process in the Mission District, which calls for more affordable housing and jobs. *

Oscar M. Grande

Oscar M. Grande is a community organizer with PODER, People Organized to Demand Employment Rights.