Behind a remarkable resolution passed by the Santa Rosa City Council on Tuesday, Feb. 2, behind the “Whereas” and the five “Resolved’s,” lies a story – a story unique to a single person whom I know and so respect, and at the same time a story that belongs to millions of Americans. It is “a” story. But really it is “The” story of America – the millions who risked so much to get to these shores, struggled to survive, then thrived, then gave back to their communities.
Ernesto Olivares came to California with his family, from Mexico at age three. His father, a former “Bracero,” worked in the prune orchards of the Sacramento Valley. The entire family, including Ernesto’s “Abuelita” worked as migrant farmworkers.
As a teenager getting ready to graduate from high school, Ernesto’s father took him aside and encouraged him to leave the fields and pursue a career. He told Ernesto that he could do anything he wanted, but not to follow his path as a farm worker.
Ernesto knew he too wanted more and signed up for the police academy after graduating from Junior College, but wanted more. He was hired by the Santa Rosa Police Department, subsequently rising to the senior executive ranks. He retired following a rewarding 30-year career. He ran for and was elected to the city council. He was then elected Mayor of the City of Santa Rosa, the first Latino mayor in its history. Ernesto is a proud father and grandfather. He now serves as the Executive Director of the California Cities Violence Prevention Network (CCVPN), of which I am the board chair. In fact, I know Ernesto very well, having worked with him since 2007 to prevent violence and to help build vital communities that don’t produce violence in 13 cities in California.
In the packed City Council chambers Tuesday night, Chaney Delaire, a resident, said: “We’re talking about families, workers in vineyards, restaurants and service industries, schoolchildren and grandparents. We’re talking about people who are part of our community, who pay taxes and provide services.” Ernesto, now back on the City Council, said, “In my 56 years as an immigrant from Mexico, I have never ever felt as welcome as I do today,” as he looked out in a council chamber filled with supporters wanting Santa Rosa to be designated as a safe community for all.
I have included the full text of “Resolution No. RES – 2017-015” below. You will read of “a highly pluralistic community that prides itself on being a place that welcomes persons…will not tolerate acts of hate, discrimination, bullying or harassment…a safe place for everyone, including but not limited to immigrants from all countries…ensures that its immigrant residents participate in civic life and daily activities without fear of being arrested…declines to enforce federal civil immigration laws…opposes deportations based solely on immigration status…shall not use city monies, resources or personnel to investigate, …detain or apprehend persons solely on the basis of possible violation of immigration law…”
So as you read the “Whereas’” and the “Resolved’s,” let Ernesto’s story give these words flesh – his story and the millions like him who leaven this wonderful nation of ours, who refresh it, celebrate it, keep it fresh, and keep it young.
RESOLUTION NO. RES-2017-015
RESOLUTION OF THE COUNCIL OF THE CITY OF SANTA ROSA TO DECLARE ITSELF AN INDIVISIBLE CITY AND SAFEGUARD THE CIVIL RIGHTS, SAFETY AND DIGNITY OF ALL SANTA ROSA RESIDENTS
WHEREAS, the City of Santa Rosa is made up of diverse individuals, both native born and immigrants, whose collective cultures, religions, backgrounds, orientations, abilities and viewpoints join to form a highly pluralistic community that prides itself on being a place that welcomes persons and families of all walks of life; and
WHEREAS, since the presidential election, there has been a sense of uncertainty and fear among many communities in Santa Rosa, across our State and across the Nation; and
WHEREAS, the City of Santa Rosa assures its vulnerable communities that the City supports them, will do all it can to maintain and improve their quality of life, and will not tolerate acts of hate, discrimination, bullying, or harassment; and
WHEREAS, the Santa Rosa City Council wishes to declare that Santa Rosa is a safe place for everyone, including, but not limited to, immigrants from all countries, people of color, people of all religions, gender identity, sexual orientation, people with disabilities and all vulnerable communities; and
WHEREAS, it is the City Council’s desire to ensure that its immigrant residents participate in civic life and daily activities without fear of being arrested or detained by, or reported to the United States Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency based solely on immigration status; and
WHEREAS, many children who are native to the United States or are undocumented immigrants have been separated from their families by United States Immigration & Customs Enforcement Agency solely due to their parents’ or their personal immigration status; and
WHEREAS, the enforcement of civil immigration laws by local police agencies raises many complex legal, logistical and resource issues for the City, including undermining the trust and cooperation with immigrant communities, increasing the risk of civil liability due to the complexity of civil immigration laws and the lack of training and expertise of local police on civil immigration enforcement and detracting from the core mission of the Santa Rosa Police Department to create safe communities; and
WHEREAS, the City Council is greatly concerned about public safety in Santa Rosa and the mission of the Santa Rosa Police Department is to protect the safety of the public against crimes committed by persons whoever they may be; and
WHEREAS, most residents in the City, including the vast majority of immigrants, are law- abiding citizens and are, when crimes occur, themselves the victims of crime, and because the City wishes to foster trust and cooperation as between the City, its police department, and its immigrant communities, and wishes to encourage immigrants to report crime and speak to the police without fear of being arrested or detained by, or reported to the United States Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency; and
WHEREAS, consistent with the law and with Council policy, the Santa Rosa Police Department already declines to enforce federal civil immigration laws, does not conduct immigration raids, and does not question, detain or arrest individuals on the basis that they might be in this country illegally in violation of Federal civil immigration laws.
NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED by the Council of the City of Santa Rosa as follows:
SECTION 1. That the Santa Rosa City Council calls upon all City residents and all City Departments and employees to speak out against acts of bullying, discrimination and hate violence and to stand up for those who are targeted for such acts.
SECTION 2. That the Santa Rosa City Council opposes deportations based solely on immigration status which split up families, and calls upon the federal government to promptly legislate a pathway to citizenship for undocumented immigrants, and to refrain from deportations of immigrants who have not been convicted of felonies endangering the community, until such time as the U.S. Congress does legislate such a pathway.
SECTION 3. That City employees, including members of the Santa Rosa Police Department, shall not enforce Federal civil immigration laws and shall not use city monies, resources or personnel to investigate, question, detect, detain or apprehend persons solely on the basis of a possible violation of immigration law.
SECTION 4. That the Santa Rosa City Council calls upon the County of Sonoma and all incorporated cities within the County of Sonoma to adopt the foregoing policies, and we welcome opportunities to partner with the Legislature, other jurisdictions, local organizations, and businesses that support and defend these populations.
SECTION 5. The City Clerk shall attest and certify to the passage and adoption of this resolution and it shall become effective immediately upon its approval.
IN COUNCIL DULY PASSED this 7th day of February 2017.